With the recent military coup on 11 April 2019, the security situation is a fluid one. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office still advise against all travel to much of western and southern Sudan, with all but essential travel to areas within 100km of Egypt west of the Nile Valley. Click here for more information.
Wake at the break of day under the golden pyramids of godlike kings of old, traverse a searing desert to the place where two Niles become one, and watch a million ruby-red fish swarm through gardens of coral. For the few travelers who venture here, the sights found amongst Sudan's sweeping hills of sand come as a fantastic surprise.
Various conflicts long put part of this vast nation off limits, but recent relative calm could lead to visitors rediscovering Sudan's 1st-century temples, thundering granite mountains and undeveloped diving in the Red Sea. Whether you rush through on a Cairo-to–Cape Town trip, or spend a slow month soaking up the history, visiting Sudan is a memorable experience.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Sudan.
This museum, the best in Sudan, has some breathtaking exhibits. The ground floor covers the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Kerma, Kush and Meroe. There's some stunning royal statues and perfectly preserved 3500-year-old artefacts from Kerma. Upstairs are numerous medieval Christian frescos removed from the ruined churches of Old Dongola and elsewhere. Outside are some temples rescued, Abu Simbel–style, from the rising waters of Lake Nasser. Allow at least 1½ to two hours for a visit.
Every Friday afternoon you can see an incredible Sufi ritual, where a colourful local troupe of whirling dervishes belonging to the Sufi community stirs up the dust in worship of Allah, at this imposing mausoleum located in a large Islamic cemetery. Things start around 4.30pm (5pm in winter), but it doesn't really get going until about 5.30pm and they don't dance during Ramadan. If you're used to the dour colours of Arabian Islam, you'll find the circus-like atmosphere here refreshingly colourful and laid-back – don't miss it!
The ceremony starts with a procession towards the mausoleum, with the dervishes carrying green banners. Some dervishes look like Rastafarians with their dreadlocks. As they parade around a large open space outside the tomb, they chant, pray, bob and clap, accompanied by cymbals and drums, which creates an atmosphere of frenzy. Some of them enter in a trance state. Foreigners are welcome to attend this ritual and take pictures.
The confluence of the Blue and White Niles, best seen from this bridge, is a languid high point of the world's longest river. You can actually see the different colours of each Nile flowing side by side before blending further downstream – although neither are blue or white! Don't attempt to take a photograph of the Nile from this bridge; numerous foreigners have been arrested for doing so.
This museum contains a small but fascinating collection of tribal artefacts from across Sudan. Displays are ordered by geographic region and illustrate how people adapt to each climatic area. It begins with the tropics of (what is now) South Sudan followed by the savannah regions south of Khartoum, finishing up with the deserts of the north.
This WWII cemetery contains numerous headstones (but no actual bodies). The Allies used Khartoum as a base to invade present-day Ethiopia to expel the Italians, and this graveyard commemorates this conflict. It's also a charmingly quiet spot in the city centre.
In this Khartoum wrestling area, you’ll find traditional wrestlers going through their paces at roughly 4pm on Fridays. The tournament attracts hundreds of spectators. Get there by taxi from the centre (about S£15, 15 minutes). Photography is permitted.