Must see attractions in Sudan

  • Top ChoiceSights in Begrawiya (Meroe)

    Meroe Pyramids

    Seemingly lost under the folds of giant apricot-coloured dunes, this ancient royal cemetery, with its clusters of narrow pyramids blanketing the sand-swept hills, is one of the most spectacular sights in eastern Africa. The pyramids range from six metres to 30 metres high and were built in the Nubian style, which is characterised by narrow bases and steep slopes. Like the pyramids of ancient Egypt, the Meroe structures served as tombs for kings and queens.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Khartoum

    National Museum

    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.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Khartoum

    Hamed el-Nil Tomb

    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!

  • Top ChoiceSights in Wawa

    Soleb

    A little south of Abri, for many travellers the wonderfully evocative Egyptian temple of Soleb is the highlight of the journey between Dongola and Wadi Halfa. It was built in the 14th century BC by Amenhotep III, the same pharaoh who gave us Luxor in Egypt, and the design and carvings are similar. It features a sanctuary and a hypostyle hall that consists of massive columns with elaborately carved capitals and splendid relief carvings.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kassala

    Khatmiyah Mosque

    At the base of the Taka Mountains is this spectacular mosque, centre of the Khatmiyah Sufi sect. It's a lovely mudbrick building with a pointed octagonal minaret and a photogenic arcade of columns in the main prayer hall. Non-Muslims are quite welcome to take a peek about. Afterwards have a little scramble around the bizarre peaks of the mountains. It's about 4km southeast of Kassala's centre; get there by taxi (S£20) or minibus (S£2).

  • Sights in Karima

    Jebel Barkal

    Jebel Barkal, the tabletopped mountain hanging on the town's south side, was sacred ground for the Egyptians at the time of the 18th-dynasty pharaohs. At the base of the mountain are some well preserved pyramids and the Temple of Amun. Buried into the belly of the mountain, and immediately below the needle of rock, is the fresco-decorated Temple of Mut (US$10), dedicated to the Egyptian sky goddess. Close to the Temple of Amun there's a small museum containing finds from around Jebel Barkal.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Abri

    Sai Island

    With a temple from Egypt's Middle Kingdom, an Ottoman fort and a medieval church among the many ruins, Sai Island is something of a synopsis of ancient Sudanese history. The fort is actually built on the foundations of a 1500 BC Egyptian town, and the ground around the ruins is littered with millions of bits of broken pottery. Little but three upright granite columns and a few walls remain of the medieval church, but physically it's probably the most striking site on the island.

  • Sights in Sudan

    Naqa

    Naqa consists of a large and well-preserved temple of Amun dating from the 1st century CE. Notable features include a hypostyle hall with splendid columns and hieroglyphics and a row of statues representing rams. Very close by is the Lion Temple. Dating from the same period, this temple is dedicated to the lion-headed god Apedemak and has wonderful exterior carvings depicting the temples creators, King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore. In front of the Lion Temple is a small kiosk.

  • Sights in Karima

    El Kurru

    The royal cemetery of El Kurru, 20km south of Karima, contains the remains of dozens of tombs. Most have either faded away to virtually nothing, or the entrances have been buried under tonnes of sand. However, two tombs containing wonderfully preserved paintings, can still be entered down a flight of stairs cut out of the rock. Dating to the 7th century BC, they were the final resting place of King Tanwetamani and his mother, Queen Qalhata.

  • Sights in Sudan

    Musawarat es-Suffra

    Musawarat is the largest Meroitic temple complex in Sudan. Its purpose remains a little unclear, though it's believed to have served as a pilgrimage site. The enormous Great Enclosure consists of numerous tumbledown columns and walls carved with reliefs of wild animals that once inhabited this region. Check out the former elephant stables and the marriage room with the engravings of newly-weds getting to know one another. A few hundred metres away is another large Lion Temple dating to the 3rd century BC.

  • Sights in Sudan

    Old Dongola

    The city of Old Dongola was capital of the Christian kingdom of Makuria between the 7th and 14th centuries and at its peak it was home to dozens of churches. The church exteriors were generally plain, but the interiors were painted in beautiful frescos – some of which are found in Khartoum's National Museum. Today little but scattered blocks, tumbledown walls and a few rows of columns remain of Old Dongola, but the sand-swept setting is sublime and you'll have the place to yourself.

  • Sights in Kassala

    Kassala Souq

    Kassala has one of Sudan's best markets, and a visit is a must. It's a maze of alleys and side streets lined with shops and stalls where myriad items are sold, from traditional products like cloth, jewels, henna or spice, to plastic buckets and electronic goods. One section of the souq caters mainly to Rashaida nomads. The magnificent Rashaida women are famous for their black-and-red geometrically patterned dresses, and their long, heavy veils elaborately embroidered with silver thread, beads and sometimes seed pearls.

  • Sights in Kerma

    Eastern Deffufa

    This site is thought to have been a royal cemetery. Around the kings' tombs archaeologists have discovered some 30,000 other graves, many of whose inhabitants appear to have been ritually sacrificed to accompany the king to the underworld. Encircling the human graves, archaeologists have also unearthed around 5000 cattle skulls, which indicates just how important cattle was to the people who once lived here. This site is about 3km west of the town centre.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kerma

    Kerma Museum

    Next to Kerma's western deffufa is this well organised museum that contains interesting relics from the site, including seven imposing granite statues and various Nubian artefacts. There's also a section dedicated to the Christian and Islamic heritage of the area. Ask for Mahamad Hassan, the director of the museum, who speaks good English. Although the museum is technically closed on Monday, if you do turn up then someone will be sent to find the keys and open up.

  • Sights in Karima

    Nuri

    At Nuri, across the river from Jebel Barkal, there are some delightfully dilapidated pyramids – among the largest in Sudan – lost among a stormy sea of orange sand. Dating from around the 7th century BC, these are both the oldest and largest pyramids in Sudan. Take a minibus (S£5, 15 minutes) from Karima. You must buy an entry ticket from the museum in Karima in advance.

  • Sights in Suakin

    Suakin Island

    Suakin Island was Sudan's only port before the construction of Port Sudan. Abandoned in the 1930s, it's now a melancholy ghost town, full of crumbling coral buildings, demonic cats said to be cursed, and circling kites and hawks with a devil's shrill call. A few buildings have been recently renovated by Turkish investors. The ruins, connected to the mainland by a short causeway, are fascinating to explore.

  • Sights in Khartoum

    White Nile Bridge

    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.

  • Sights in Khartoum

    Ethnographical Museum

    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.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kerma

    Western Deffufa

    A 15-minute walk away from town, this massive mudbrick temple stood about 19m high and stretched 50m long. Nobody is really certain what it was used for but most agree it served a religious purpose. Today it has crumbled into an oddly appealing form and you can still climb to the top and enjoy breathtaking views.

  • Sights in Karima

    Karima Museum

    This small museum near the Temple of Amun contains finds from around Jebel Barkal, including statues. There are panels in English. It also sells tickets to El Kurru and Nuri.