Sudan is the largest country in North Africa. It lies directly south of Egypt. Much like Egypt, the Nile river and its tributaries are the life of this very hot desert country. People have lived in Sudan for thousands of years farming by the Nile and herding livestock. Pyramids tell of a time when the Pharos made Sudan their home. Today, with a population of about thirty five million, Sudan is a developing modern country attempting to somehow find its place in the international community.
Sudan is a huge country. It is about the size of Western Europe. The marking feature of the country is the Nile river, formed by the White Nile and the Blue Nile which meet in the capital city, Khartoum. In general the country is flat. The exceptions are the coastal mountains in the east, the Nuba Mountains, and the far western mountains. There is also a marked distinction between the north and south. Northern Sudan is very dry, consisting of large expanses of desert and arid planes. Southern Sudan contains large areas of rain forests and swamps making it much more adaptable for farming.
Sudan is hot, very hot. There is a dry season and a rainy season. The length of the rainy season is largely determined by how far north one lives. The extreme south of Sudan normally has a nine month rainy season while a city like Atbara in the North is lucky to get more than a week of showers. Khartoum usually has a two month rainy season lasting throughout July and August. Temperatures in Sudan are highest in May and June, which is also the common season for sand storms. Average daily highs range between 37oC and 43oC with an occasional day in the 48oC. Because the country is mostly desert there is usually a large difference between day time and night time temperatures. In Khartoum a January day might have a high of 27oC and dip to 7oC at night.
Sudan has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. Over four hundred ethnic groups have their own language which they use along side a trade language such as Arabic. The population has two major groups, the Muslim people living in the north, and the darker skinned people of the south. Because of famine and war, almost three million southerners live in the north, which now is home to about 75% of the country's population. Greater Khartoum, the largest city in the country, has a population of about six million. Sudan's current total population is around thirty five million people.
The main food items such as meat, river fish, eggs and milk (which should be boiled if it is not bottled) is available throughout the year. Fruits like bananas, orange, grapefruits, mangoes, melons and dates are also available in season, and other kinds of fruits (apple, apricot etc.) are imported. While various imported tinned food items are available at the Government-run duty-free shop and private groceries, they are comparatively expensive. Other special food items have to be imported. The city water in Khartoum and other towns is treated. However, it is preferred that tap water be filtered and/or boiled before use. Bottled mineral water locally produced is available on the market in suitable prices SD100 for 1.5 lit. Bottle. Uncooked food should be avoided.
President - Field Marshal - Omar al-Bashir
It is difficult to give an accurate picture of the Sudanese government. In theory, Sudan is a federal republic of twenty six states led by a directly elected President who works alongside a national assembly. Sudan is led by President Field Marshal Omar al-Bashir. Since 1989 he is heading the national assembly.
The civil war between the North and the South started in 1984 when the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was formed and began fighting the Khartoum government. The South does not support the Khartoum government which tried to impose traditional Islamic law on the entire country. The North sees the war as a holy war against the unbelievers who threaten the "true faith". War between the North and the South dates back many years and resulted in genocide. But the war is not only between the North and the South, fighting is also common between the southern tribes. In Sudan, war was part of everyday life, but the situation is fast turning towards normalcy with the intervention of UN. At present potential local threats might include violent actions from militias aligned with the GoS, the SPLA, non-aligned armed groups, foreign armed groups, criminal elements and land mines. It is important to appreciate that these threats may vary significantly during the transition process and the post transition period (referendum and post referendum).
Sudan's history goes back thousands of years before Christ and is almost as old as the Nile itself. The Cush kingdom of the Old Testament was located in present-day northern Sudan, and for thousands of years the center of power along the Nile shifted between Egypt and Sudan. The sixth century saw the rise of Christianity in Sudan. The Christian faith officially remained until the Islamic Conquest in the thirteenth century yet many people kept their faith until the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Islamic rulers from the Ottoman empire led the country for several centuries until the 1880's when the British, along side the Egyptians, took control of Sudan. The conquest was partof an effort to control the river as well as a response to the Mahdist Islamic revolution seen as a possible threat to the stability of the area.
On December 19, 1955, the Parliament voted unanimously that the Sudan should become "a fully independent sovereign state". British and Egyptian troops left the country on January 1, 1956; the same day a five-man Council of State was appointed to take over the powers of the governor general until a new constitution was agreed. From 1956 to 1989 several governments tried to rule the country but frequent drought and the constant clash between the north and the south brought them all down.
In 1989 a coup brought into power a military regime led by Lt. General Umar Hassan Ahmed al-Beshir which was dominated by the National Islamic Front led by Hassan al Turabi, Speaker of the 400 seat National Assembly. Following the 1989 coup the war against the SPLA intensified. Internationally sponsored attempts to negotiate a peace settlement between the two sides, such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sponsored negotiations made little progress until June 2002, although the Government, and the SPLM/A agreed in 1997 on a Declaration of Principles (DoP). The DoP held that the unity of the Sudan should be given priority, provided that the social and political system was secular and democratic and that resources be equitably shared. In the absence of these principles, the South would have the right to self-determination through a referendum.
Naivasha agreement was signed in Naivasha, Kenya on 25 Sep 2003. During pre interim and interim period 6 1/2 years SAF and SPLA will separate and distinct. Joint integration unit (JIU) will be formed. Joint defense board would be chaired by Chiefs of Staff of SAF and SPLA alternatively. After 2 years SAF and SPLA will withdraw remaining force. Forces allied to either of parties shall be offered the opportunity to join those forces or shall be integrated in civil services. All stated agreements took effect from Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 09 Jan 2005. The UN Security Council passed the resolution No.1590 on 24 Mar 2005 to bring to establish its peace keeping presence in Sudan.
The best place to visit in Sudan is the Indian Aviation Camp located near Kadugli airport. A well planned city in itself and it's the only place in Sudan where one can get everything free of cost.
The heart of every Sudanese town is its souq, Kadugli is no exception. As you leave the main road, it seems quite dull and disappointing, with normal dukkans selling stuff you can buy anywhere and no sense of atmosphere at all, but don't be put off. keep going deeper, and it becomes livelier and more traditional. The stalls become more rustic in design, made out of wood with plastic sheeting or woven leaves as roofs. The goods also become more "exotic", like spices, herbal medicines, animal skins, shoes made from old tyres, coffee making equipment, etc... The people are very friendly, and there is no pressure to buy anything.
Khartoum is one of three sister cities, built at the convergence of the Blue and White Niles: Omdurman to the north-west across the White Nile, North Khartoum, and Khartoum itself on the southern bank of the Blue Nile.
Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was first established as a military outpost in 1821, and is said to derive its name from the thin spit of land at the convergence of the rivers, which resembles an elephant's trunk (khurtum). Khartoum grew rapidly in prosperity during the boom years of the slave trade, between 1825 and 1880. In 1834 it became the capital of the Sudan, and many explorers from Europe used it as a base for their African expeditions.
Khartoum was sacked twice during the latter half of the 19th century -- once by the Mahdi and once by Kitchener when the Mahdi was ousted. In 1898, Kitchener began to rebuild the city, and designed the streets in the shape of the British flag, the Union Jack, which he hoped would make it easier to defend. On the opposite bank of the Nile, North Khartoum was developed as an industrial area at about the same time.
Today's Khartoum is a quiet, unremarkable city. It has peaceful, tree-lined streets, and in some ways still bears the unmistakable mark of an outpost of the British Empire. Its expansion to accommodate a rapidly-growing population, however, has added very little in terms of charm or atmosphere.
This contains antiquities and artifacts from several periods of Sudanese history and pre-history, including glassware, pottery, statuary and figurines from the ancient kingdom of Cush. Ancient Nubia's Christian period is well-represented, with frescoes and murals from ruined churches, dating from the 8th to the 15th century. The Museum's garden contains two reconstructed temples, which have been salvaged from the Nubian land flooded by Lake Nasser. These Egyptian temples of Buhen and Semna were originally built by Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Tuthmosis III respectively. The temples have corrugated iron covers built over them to protect them from humidity during the wet season.
This is a small museum which contains an interesting collection of items relating to Sudanese village life. These include musical instruments, clothing, cooking and hunting implements.
In the 18th century, El-Fasher was the main centre of the Fur Sultanate. The sultan's palace can still be seen in this western-Sudanese town, and is now a museum.
The town was also famous as the starting point of one of the most important camel caravan routes in Africa. Known as the Darb al-Arba'een, or Forty Days Road, this route carried ebony, spices, rich cloth, ivory and slaves from all parts of Africa to the Egyptian bazaars of Aswan and Asyut.
This is the largest in Sudan, and has an interesting variety of goods on display. Ivory and ebony candlesticks are carved by market craftsmen, goldsmiths and silversmiths fashion all kinds of jewellery in their shop-fronts, and the atmosphere is lively and bustling. The best time to visit is on Friday mornings.
CAMEL MARKET: This is situated about 2km North of Omdurman's main souq. Animals are mostly brought from Eastern or Western areas of the Sudan.
Tomb of the Mahdi. On the death of the Mahdi in 1885, his body was entombed in a silver-domed mosque in Omdurman. This was completely destroyed by Kitchener in 1898, when the Mahdi's body was burned and his ashes thrown into the river. In 1947 the Mahdi's son had the mosque and tomb rebuilt. Not surprisingly, it is closed to foreigners, but can be viewed from the outside.
BEIT AL-KHALIFA: This is situated opposite the Mahdi's tomb. Once the home of the Mahdi's successor, the house was built of mud and brick in 1887, and is now a museum. It contains relics from Mahdiyya battles, including guns, war banners and suits of mail. An interesting collection of photographs depicts the city of Khartoum at the time of the Mahdi's revolt and its subsequent occupation by the British.
This is the capital city of the Kordofan region in Western Sudan, and was once the Mahdi's capital and political centre. Situated in the middle of a vast stretch of barren desert, it has a population of 200,000 people and is an important centre for the production of gum arabic. This substance is used in the manufacture of food thickening, ink and medicinal products, and is obtained from acacia trees.
The city experiences problems with its supplies of both electric power and water. Electricity from the city's own generators is erratic. In such an arid desert environment, water supplies often dwindle and have to be brought in by truck from other areas.
The two souqs in the city deal mostly in meat and vegetables. There are also some tailor's shops where fabric can be purchased and clothes made to order.
There is little to interest the visitor in El-Obeid, apart from a small museum, which displays exhibits relating to ancient Sudanese history. Its Catholic cathedral is impressive, however, and is said to be one of the largest in Africa.
Port Sudan is a harbour city, established by the British in 1905 as a seaport. Once a thriving export centre handling the country's raw commodities such as sesame, cotton and sorghum, it has now fallen as a result of the ongoing war.
Today it is still possible to see beautiful lattice woodwork on the window-screens of older buildings, which provide a glimpse into the city's more prestigious past.
It was once possible to travel by boat from Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, but passenger traffic, like commercial activity, has dwindled. As a result, passenger services from the port are no longer in existence.
For visitors interested in Red Sea diving, this is still quite a good place to use as a base, and local hotels and dive shops can make the necessary arrangements.
Kassala is situated in Eastern Sudan and has a population of 150,000. The city is built on the Gash River and is the power centre of one of the Sudan's traditional families -- the Khatmiya Brotherhood, which opposed the Mahdi family in the last century.
On the outskirts of the city live the Rashaida tribe, mostly inhabiting goatskin tents. They are a nomadic people who breed camels and goats, and are closely related to the Saudi Arabian Bedouin, having migrated from the Arabian Peninsula about 150 years ago. It is the mysteriously-veiled Rashaida women who make a great deal of the silver jewellery sold in the Kassala souq.
The souq is said to be one of Sudan's best, and sells a wide variety of the fruit for which Kassala is renowned. Grapefruit, pomegranates, oranges, bananas and melons are all for sale here, as well as local handicrafts, fabrics and the aforementioned silver jewellery.
Several kilometres outside Kassala are the curiously-shaped 'sugar-loaf' hills, known as the jebels. They can be seen on the horizon from the city and are the habitat of a tribe of baboons, which come down from the hills at sunset to drink at a nearby village well.
Kassala is also a favourite retreat for Sudanese honeymoon couples, and in the nearby village of Khatmiya, the same village well is a traditional place for newly-wed couples to drink. Water from the well is said to bring good luck and a fertile married life.
The island is situated 58km south of Port Sudan and was once a major trading centre, particularly in the 19th century. As far back as the 10th century BC, Suakin was used by Pharaoh Rameses III as a trading port, but declined in importance after the close of the 19th century AD, and in 1905 was superseded in importance by Port Sudan.
Its unique architecture is made of coral, but these once-beautiful buildings, although restored by the Mahdi in 1881, are now in the final stages of crumbling away. The island is linked to the mainland by means of a causeway.
Once an important centre of power in ancient Nubia, the remains of the old northern-Sudanese city are being excavated by a Polish-led team -- a project that has been in operation since 1964.
The town is now noteworthy for its palm groves and its September date harvest, when young boys climb the palm trunks, carrying sharp knives in their teeth, to cut the clusters of dates. The fruit and vegetable souq here is a colourful sight, occasionally dealing in camels, which the desert nomads bring in for sale.
The Cushite temple of Kawa is situated on the eastern bank of the river. The ruins of this temple can be visited by taking a ferry across the river from the main town
This Northern-Sudanese market town has a population of about 15,000. There are several ancient sites nearby which are worth a visit.
Just 2km south of the town is the 100-metre high Jebel Barkal, a hill which was regarded as sacred by the Egyptians of the 18th Dynasty. From its summit, there is an excellent view of the Nile. At its foot lies the Temple of Amun, second only in length to the famous Temple of Karnak. This was once surrounded by about six smaller temples, and ruins of these, together with statuary and hieroglyphics, make this an interesting Cushite site.
Lying west of the temple are the Jebel Barkal Pyramids, similar in style to those at Meroe.
Located at the conjunction of the Atbara tributary, flowing down from Ethiopia, and the River Nile, Atbara is on two main railway routes: from Atbara to Port Sudan, and from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa.
The city has a population of 75,000 people. In 1898 it was the site of a battle between the British and the Mahdists, when 2,000 of the latter were wiped out by Kitchener. After the battle, British officials settled here, building colonial-style houses, which are now used as government offices.
The ruins of the Royal City of Meroe are located about 100km south of Atbara. Residence of the kings of Meroe between 592BC and AD350, the city shows strong Egyptian architectural influence. The ruined Temple of Amun is still standing, together with the remains several palaces and a swimming pool.
In the desert, about 5km to the east, stand the royal pyramids, where the dead kings of Meroe are buried.
This Western-Sudanese mountain range is dominated by the second-highest mountain in the Sudan, known as Jebel Marra. This is an extinct volcano which rises to a height of 3071 metres.
At the base of the mountain range lies the town of Nyala, and this town forms a good starting point for an exploration of the surrounding mountainous countryside. It is a beautiful region of hills, rivers and orchards, and is an interesting spot for walking enthusiasts. There is a waterfall near the village of Quaila and some hot springs near the crater of the volcano itself.