Sudan (Arabic: السودان, As-Sudan) is a country in Northeast Africa and is Africa's third largest country in terms of area. Sudan was the continent's largest country up until the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
Since the 1980s, Sudan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The country has had a particularly turbulent history since independence from the United Kingdom, and has suffered from decades of conflict and warfare. Under less dire circumstances, however, travelling to Sudan offers one the opportunity to explore a large, diverse nation whose history is believed to go all the way back to 8000 BCE and meet some very hospitable, jovial people.
|Central Sudan |
Home to the capital city, Khartoum, and the traveller's main entry point.
A semi-arid area approximately the size of Spain. Widely considered by many to be the most dangerous region in the country.
|Eastern Sudan |
The agricultural hub of the country.
A vast desert area and the site of an ongoing insurgency.
|Northern Sudan |
Home to pyramids, ancient temples, and historical palaces. It handles the country's international trade and serves as the country's main access point to the world's oceans.
- 1 Khartoum — the national capital, which also consists of Omdurman and Khartoum North (Bahri)
- 2 Abyei — simultaneously part of both Sudan and South Sudan until a referendum can be held in the area
- 3 Al Ubayyid — capital of North Kurdufan state
- 4 Gedaref — capital of Gedaref state
- 5 Kassala
- 6 Nyala — capital of Darfur
- 7 Port Sudan — Sudan's main Red Sea port
- 8 Atbara — an important railway junction and railroad manufacturing centre
Other destinations edit
The area around the banks of the River Nile was once known as Nubia, one of the world's earliest civilisations that was the main rival of its northern neighbour, Egypt. The city of Kerma is believed to have been the capital of the first centralised Nubian state. Nubia would be annexed by Egypt in the 16th century BCE under the rule of Pharaoh Thutmose I, with its southern limits extended all the way to the city of Napata, leading to the fusion of Egyptian culture with their own native culture by the Nubians.
With the weakening of Egyptian control, a de facto independent Nubian state would re-emerge in Napata, becoming the Kingdom of Kush. The Kingdom of Kush would grow in strength, eventually conquering Egypt in the 8th century BCE, thus establishing the 25th Dynasty, with its rulers popularly known as the "black pharoahs" due to the colour of their skin that stood in contrast to the lighter-skin Egyptians. The southern part of the kingdom was home to the city of Meroë, known for its Nubian pyramids, which while clearly influenced by the Egyptian ones, are also built in a distinctively Nubian architectural style, which later became the capital of the kingdom. During the height of Roman power, while Egypt was conquered by the Romans, the Kingdom of Kush managed to fend off the Romans under the leadership of the warrior queen Amanirenas, also known as the One-Eyed Queen due to having lost an eye during a battle with the Romans. Eventually, the Nubians proved so difficult to fight that the Romans agreed to a peace treaty, thus maintaining Nubia's independence.
Islam was introduced to the Sudan from Egypt in the 7th century by the Arabs, who called it bilal al-Sudan, meaning "land of the Blacks". In the 16th century, the Funj Sultanate ruled the northern quarter. After a brief period of Ottoman rule, Sudan became the scene of Mahdist uprisings resulting in British control. Sudan declared independence in 1956 as a modern republic and became the largest country in Africa.
|Currency||Sudanese pound (SDG)|
|Population||40.5 million (2017)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, AC power plugs and sockets: British and related types)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Sudan was afflicted by civil wars for more than 40 years until South Sudan became independent in July 2011, following a referendum. When the colonial map-makers divided up Africa, they included in Sudan the predominantly Muslim people of the north (including Nubians and Arabs), who share much of their history and culture with Egyptians, and the largely Christian and Animist Bantu people of the south, who have more in common with the rest of sub-Saharan Africa than with their northern countryfolk. Minor conflicts still linger in the western region of Darfur, and hotspots do occur on the eastern front, next to the border with Eritrea. From 1989 to 2019, Sudan was under the authoritarian rule of Omar Hassan al-Bashir until a coup spurred by protests led to a new military government taking power.
Sudan is as geographically diverse as it is culturally; in the north, the Nile cuts through the eastern edge of the Sahara: the Nubian desert, the site of the Ancient Kingdoms of Cush and Meroe, and the land of the Seti. Here, some modest farming and husbandry supplements the staple crop of date palms. The East and West are mountainous regions, and much of the rest of the country comprises savannahs typical of much of central sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of its population are Sunni Muslims and proselytization of non-Sunni beliefs is not allowed.
Along the border of Egypt with Sudan there is the strange stateless limbo of Bir Tawil, which is not claimed by either state and thus legally the only piece of dry land outside Antarctica not belonging to or claimed by any state. This is politically connected to the conflict of the Hala'ib Triangle by the coast, controlled by Egypt.
Sudan has nearly 600 ethnic groups. Sudanese Arabs are the largest ethnic group and other ethnic groups include Nubians, Copts and Beja.
Get in edit
Sudanese travel visas are expensive and difficult to acquire for some nationalities in some countries or for people with an Israeli stamp in their passport. It is advisable to obtain a Sudanese visa in your home country if possible.
From Egypt: Cairo and Aswan are the easiest places to get one (usually a couple of hours after application), it costs US$150 (as of November 2022), payment is now possible in Egyptian pounds. A letter of invitation/introduction from your embassy is no longer needed.
As of July 2022, a UK passport takes four days processing once handed in at the Cairo office, US$150 paid in absolutely pristine banknotes plus two small passport photos and the paper form filled in, as given there. The tourist visa is for two calendar months from date of issue; it is all written in Arabic. Your declared first hotel name is scrawled against the sponsor on the visa sticker, but a specific hotel booking doesn't seem needed despite indications for this elsewhere. It's a somewhat confused process where showing lots of deferrence and patience is required. They say a COVID-19 negative test taken within three days is needed at the border but no vaccine or quarantine, nor restrictions on entry or exit points. The embassy for visas in Cairo is near Dokki metro station, turning left onto Dokki street, following the flyover and then taking the last right hand side turning to the end, past the small hospital.
From Ethiopia - getting a visa from the Sudanese Embassy in Addis Ababa is extremely unpredictable, although it is cheaper (around US$60). Your name is first sent to Khartoum merely for approval. An official has stated, "It could take two weeks, it could take two months." Once your name has been approved, the visa itself only takes a couple of days. Britons and Americans are generally given more of a run around, but no nationality is guaranteed swift receipt of a visa. Expect to wait a minimum of two weeks for approval. If your trip continues from Sudan to Egypt and you already have your Egyptian visa you may be given a one-week transit visa for Sudan in only a day, which can be extended in Khartoum (at a hefty cost, though). The British Embassy in Addis Ababa charges a steep 740 birr (over GBP40) for their letter of invitation/introduction.
From Kenya - visa applications are submitted between 10:00 and 12:00 and visa collected next day 15:00-15:50. Price is 5,000 Kenyan shillings (Ksh) (US$50). Letter of support for application can be obtained from own embassy (e.g. British Embassy, charges Ksh8,200, turnaround time depends on availability of the Consul who needs to sign the letter). Sudanese Embassy is located in Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Road (10 minutes walk from Wildebeest Campsite accommodation in Kibera Road, and near Prestige Shopping Plaza). Google, Visa HQ, etc., show the old address (Minet ICDC building), which is not correct. Generally the experience at the Nairobi Sudanese Embassy is less confusing than in Egypt (with its jostling queues at three anonymous but different windows).
Possibly out of date information: From Kenya - as in Addis Ababa, the Sudanese Embassy in Nairobi sends your name to Khartoum for approval. The time it takes is similarly ambiguous, although the embassy is far more professional and efficiently-run than Addis Ababa's.
Hours-long waits for customs clearance are not unheard of, and landing in Khartoum can be tricky. Entering or exiting by land usually goes smoothly. Alcohol is forbidden in Sudan, and attempting to import it could bring strict penalties.
Permits and other legal requirements edit
- Registration is obligatory within 3 days of arrival. It can be done at any of the entry ports, including Wadi Halfa, Khartoum, Port Sudan and Sawakin. Do not be tempted to skip registration, as it is very likely to cause problems when you leave the country - you might not be allowed to board your flight! Although anecdotal evidence suggests registration can be done when departing from the Khartoum airport.
- Hotels used to complete the registration on your behalf, but it not clear that they still do so. Registration in Wadi Halfa shouldn't take more than an hour. Here, you may be approached (particularly if you're in a group) by an English-speaking man who will offer to take your passports and do everything while you wait outside. This is easier than doing it yourself (it is a ping-pong procedure between offices, counters, desks, etc.) but you'll find the fee he's added to each person's registration cost is USD2-3. It's not really that difficult.
- There is a departure tax at the land borders. In case departing by air, departure tax is already included in the airline ticket price. The travel permit and the photo permit are no longer required.
By plane edit
Khartoum Airport is served by various Middle Eastern and African airlines. Among the cities with direct air links with Khartoum are Abu Dhabi (Etihad), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Amman (Royal Jordanian), Bahrain (Gulf Air), Cairo (EgyptAir, Sudan Airways), Damascus (Syrian Airlines), Doha (Qatar Airways), Dubai Airport (Emirates), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Sharjah (Air Arabia low cost airline)
On April 15, 2023, Khartoum Airport was seized by rebel forces and is closed due to ongoing fighting.
By train edit
There are train routes between Sudan and South Sudan from the city of Babanusa in Sudan to Wau in South Sudan.
By land edit
One way to get in from Ethiopia is via the border village of Gallabat. The road crossing from Egypt periodically closes, depending on diplomatic and trading relations between the two countries. Check for information before trying this route.
By bus edit
When open, there are buses from Aswan, Egypt; be prepared for a long 5-6 hours delays at the border.
There is no updated information about public transportation between Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan.
By boat edit
The most reliable way to enter Sudan from Egypt is via the weekly ferry from Aswan in Egypt to Wadi Halfa. It runs on Mondays to Sudan and back on Wednesdays, and costs US$33 per person. The boat is old and crowded with people and goods (the best place to sleep is on deck amongst the cargo) but it takes in some magnificent views (including that of Abu Simbel). Food and drink are available on board. There are frequent ferries from Saudi Arabia. If travelling from the south, ferry tickets can be purchased at Khartoum's main train terminal in North Khartoum.
Get around edit
By plane edit
Apart from Khartoum, there are small airports in Wadi Halfa, El Debba, Dongola, Port Sudan, El Fasher, Wad Madani, Merowe and El Obeid, all served by Sudan Airways[dead link]. Most flights operate from Khartoum. Be prepared for changing timetables and cancelled flights.
By train edit
Although Sudan has one of the largest rail networks in Africa much of it is in a state of disrepair. There is reason for optimism about train travel in Sudan again. The Nile Express, with new trains brought in from China, now whisks passengers between Khartoum and Atbara on renovated tracks. More tracks are being renovated but for now other services are limited to local trains around the capital Khartoum, a weekly service from Wadi Halfa, timed with the ferry to/from Egypt, and a very sporadic service with Nyala. Sole operator of trains in Sudan is the Sudan Railways Corporation.
By car edit
Driving in Sudan is chaotic but not especially dangerous by African standards. Visitors to the area who are inexperienced at international driving are advised to hire a taxi or a driver. In most of the country, a 4WD is essential; Sudan's main highway is sealed for much of the way but most of the roads in the country are dirt or sand tracks. Crossing in to Sudan from Egypt via the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa now has the benefit of the Chinese financed tarmac highway covering the 400 km south to Dongola, and then right through to Khartoum, another 500 km. This road is quick for overlanders as there are few military roadblocks, and very little other traffic.
By bus edit
While buses do run frequently in the better travelled areas, in remoter areas people tend to use trucks or "boxes" (Toyota Hiluxes) - they're usually just as crowded as the buses but have fewer people sitting on top and get stuck in the sand less often. They tend to go whenever they fill up, which can take half a day or so. If you have money to spare, you can hire a whole one to yourself
By bicycle edit
It is legal to cycle around Sudan, although it might be advisable to forget to mention your mode of transport when getting your permit to travel. "Cycling" will often consist of pushing the bike through sand or rattling along corrugations but the scenery and the warmth of the Sudanese people may compensate for the physical and bureaucratic hassles. Check carefully the availability of clean, drinkable water. Theft is not a problem; it is generally safe to leave bicycles unattended in villages and towns. Flies, puncture-generous thorn trees and, in the far north, lack of shade, can be real annoyances.
- See also: Arabic phrasebook
The official languages of Sudan are Arabic and English.
For most Sudanese people, Arabic is their first language, and English is normally their second language.
The local vernacular is Sudanese Arabic, which is somewhat similar to the Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabia.
If you don't know the local dialect, do not despair; all Sudanese people learn Modern Standard Arabic at school, so you should have no problems communicating in major cities. Bear in mind that illiteracy is still a major problem in Sudan.
Prior to a constitutional change in 2005, Arabic was the sole official language of the country.
In Khartoum/Omdurman you must see the Sufi ritual of drumming and trance dancing, about one hour before sunset and Friday prayer. These rituals take place northwest of the Nile river in Omdurman. Very welcoming, festive atmosphere.
A walk around Tuti Island, situated in the middle of the confluence of the two branches of the Nile, can take about four hours. The less populated northern section is pretty, with its shady lanes, and irrigated fields, and there is a great little coffee stall under a tree on the western side.
The pyramids of Meroe are 2.5 hours north of Khartoum (leave early to avoid Khartoum traffic). On the same route visit the sites of Naqa and Musawarat. Permits are required before visiting the sites. You pay at each site (which may depend on how well your driver gets along with the guards). Naqa and Musawarat are signposted beside the Nile Petrol station (about 1 hour 15 minutes north of Khartoum) and the track is fairly clear but sandy. It is probably good to carry a GPS to avoid getting lost in the bush.
After 16:00 take a good coffee at the Burj Al-Fatih - also known as Corinthia hotel -, with high altitude view over Khartoum, the Nile, and Omdurman, and stay to watch the sunset. Worthwhile.
About 1½ hours south of Khartoum visit the dam. Just north of the dam (downstream) the Nile is also very wide; on Friday/Saturday the area is popular is day visitors.
There is good diving near Port Sudan, either on live-aboards or from the new Red Sea Resort (north of Port Sudan). Beware the windy season (Nov to Feb) unless you're not prone to seasickness (2½-hour dingy ride from the coast in rough seas can be testing!)
Exchange rates for Sudanese pounds
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of the country is the Sudanese pound (Arabic: جنية jeneh, ISO currency code: SDG). The pound is divided into 100 piastres (coins). The "G" in the currency code stands for "guinea".
The pound was introduced in 2007, to replace the Sudanese dinar (Arabic: دينار dinar, SDD). The new pound is worth 100 old dinars.
Coins in Sudan come in denominations of 1-, 5-, 10-, 20 and 50 piastres and 1 Sudanese pound. Banknotes in Sudan come in denominations of 1-, 2-, 5-, 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500 and 1,000 Sudanese pounds.
Things are not so simple when it comes to price quoting. Instead of new pounds (which are hardly used for quoting) and dinars (more commonly used, especially when quoting in English), most people still talk in terms of the old pound, although there are no more old pound notes in circulation. One dinar is worth 10 old pounds. Hence, when a person asks for 10,000 pounds, they actually want 1,000 dinars from you. And just to add to the confusion further, people usually do away with the thousands when quoting in pounds. So, your taxi driver may ask you for 10 pounds, which actually means 10,000 old pounds, which is equivalent to 1,000 dinars, which should be referred to once again as just 10 pounds! To clear any confusion, you could try saying "new pound" or جنية الجديد jeneh al-jedid.
Easy summary: 1 new pound = 100 dinars = 1000 old pounds (long out of use)
Foreign cash into Sudan, preferably United States dollars (often accepted in hotels), Bank of England pounds and, to a lesser extent, euros are also fairly easy to exchange at banks in big cities. Travellers cheques are not accepted in Sudan.
There are many banks in Khartoum and throughout Sudan but not all of them have foreign exchange facilities. There are several money changers in Khartoum, especially in Afra Mall. There are also several Western Union agents in Khartoum which will do payouts for money transferred from overseas.
The currency is not fully convertible, and there is a black market with rates a little higher than the official rates: black market dealers quoted the U.S dollar at SGP540 in March 2022. The Sudanese pound is a closed currency, so be sure to change it back before you leave the country.
The currency is unstable, and the annual inflation rate was reported in Apr 2022 to be 260%.
- United Capital Bank (Corinthia Hotel) has an international Visa card ATM.
- Bank of Khartoum Visa card
- Qatar National Bank Visa card
Sudanese cuisine edit
Sudanese cuisine has various influences, but none of them dominates the regional culinary cultures. Among the influences are from Egyptian, Ethiopian, Yemeni and Turkish cuisines (meatballs, pastries and spices), but there are also numerous dishes that are common to all Arabian nations.
- Foul, made from fava beans, is a common dish. It is eaten daily in breakfast by many Sudanese and can be considered the national dish.
- Local Sudanese breads are Kissra, a bread made from durra or corn; and Gurassa, a thick bread from wheat flour similar to pancake, but thicker. Sudanese also class Aseeda, a porridge made from wheat, millet or corn, as a bread.
- One local Northern Sudanese dish is Gurassa Bil Damaa, which is a bread of unleavened wheat similar to a pancake but thicker, topped up with meat stew or chicken.
- Some Eastern Sudanese dishes are Mukhbaza, which is made of shredded wheat bread mixed with mashed bananas and honey; Selaat, which is lamb cooked over heated stones; and Gurar, which is a kind of local sausage cooked in a similar way to Selaat.
- One of the popular dishes from western Sudan is Agashe, meat seasoned with ground peanuts and spices (mainly hot chilli), and cooked on a grill or an open flame.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are very common.
Restaurants and food shopping edit
There are many modern restaurants/cafes such as Mexican, Korean, Italian, Turkish, Pakistani, Indian and Chinese in Khartoum and in Kharto North.
One of the main attractions is Sug al Naga (the camel market) north of Omdurman, where you can select your meat of choice and then hand it over to one of the ladies to cook it for you in the way which you prefer.
Islam is the official religion of the country, and alcohol has been banned since sharia was imposed in the 1980s. Sudanese people frequently drink tea, usually sweet and black. Sudan also has some refreshing drinks such as karkade (hibiscus) which can be served hot or chilled, aradeeb (tamarind) and gongleiz (made with the baobab fruit). The local energy drink is a carbohydrate-laden drink known as madeeda. There are several types of madeeda, made with dates, dukhun (millet) or other ingredients blended with fresh milk, and usually heavily sweetened with sugar, though reduced-sugar versions may be available if you ask. Sudanese coffee is available in most souks and is similar to Turkish style coffee; thick and strong, sometimes flavoured with cardamom or ginger with a powerful kick and altogether delicious. Not to be taken before bed though if you want an undisturbed night's sleep!
However, while alcohol is strictly illegal in the Muslim north, locally-brewed alcohol is widely available in various forms and at various degrees of potency. A local beer (merissa) brewed from sorghum or millet is cloudy, sour and heavy and likely to be brewed with untreated water and will almost certainly lead to the 'Mahdi's revenge' (the Sudanese version of 'Delhi belly'). Aragi is a pure spirit distilled from sorghum or in its purest form, dates. It is potent and should be treated with respect, and beware that it is sometimes contaminated with the likes of methanol or embalming fluid to add flavour and potency! Be aware though that all these brews are not only potentially hazardous for your health but illegal, and being caught in possession can result in the full implementation of Islamic law punishments.
The general advice is not to drink tap water; in most rural areas, you will not be able to, as there are no taps. Where there are no bore holes (which often yield water that is fine to drink), water is often taken directly from the Nile.
Larger towns and cities edit
Most larger towns and cities have affordable hotels, although not as cheap as you might imagine. Quality is generally consistent within the price range.
Basic hotels provide a bed and a fan with shared bathroom/toilet facilities. There may be more than one bed in the room but you are usually expected to pay for the whole room. The bigger the group of travellers, the more economical these rooms are, as more beds are often put in a room (within reason) to accommodate everybody without the price being changed. Some hotels have cheaper beds outside in the open as in smaller towns and cities. These hotels are not very clean but are cheap and perfectly acceptable for short stays.
Lower mid-range hotels - more likely to be found in Khartoum - offer the worst value for money. They may have en suite bathrooms, (mostly evaporative) air conditioning and satellite television, but for what you're paying (two or three times that of basic hotels depending on your bargaining skills) the rooms are extremely tatty and hotel owners will almost always subscribe to the philosophy of: 'Only fix something if the guest complains'. There will sometimes be rooms minus the bathroom/air conditioning/television for prices a little above those in basic hotels.
Upper mid-range hotels are the next step up, with spotless rooms of a far higher quality but prices (usually quoted in dollars) closer to what you'd expect in the West. You'll have little to find fault with, though.
Top-end hotels are commonly of the five star variety, and include the Hilton. The few are found mostly in Khartoum. They are much more expensive than the upper mid-range hotels.
Outside larger towns and cities edit
Outside larger towns and cities hotels don't normally go above basic. That means bedframes with either simply a string mesh or with thin mattresses; that is not to say they are uncomfortable. They are offered (generally in fours or fives) in rooms where there is often a ceiling fan to keep things cool. The beds are usually cheaper - and more fun to sleep in - out in the courtyard under the stars, although there is obviously less privacy and security. As with the basic hotels in larger towns and cities, it is more often than not impossible to rent one bed in a room as you might in a dormitory. Hotel owners insist that you rent the whole room. Rooms become unavailable quickly at certain times (weekends, for example). Showers may be bucket showers, with water straight out of the Nile if your route follows that river.
Camping in the wild is easy in rural areas outside the south as long as the usual precautions are taken.
Stay safe edit
Safety in Sudan has many dimensions. On one hand, theft is almost unheard of, you'll never be robbed in the street and people will go to great length to ensure your well-being. On the other hand, Sudan has a long history of conflict, the government is not particularly open or accountable, and under the surface corruption is rife.
Sudan is an Islamic country and consumption of alcohol is illegal. Extra-marital relations, including having guest in a hotel room, is illegal, with severe penalties.
Armed conflict edit
Sudan was at 40-year civil war between the Khartoum based central government and non-Muslim separatist groups from the South, at the time when South Sudan was still part of Sudan. Relations between the two countries after the independence of South Sudan remain fluid and somewhat tense or complicated
The well-publicized conflict in Darfur is still taking place, making travelling to the western parts of Sudan totally inadvisable.
Sudan is one of four countries worldwide that do not comply with international flight safety protocol. The fleet of the state-owned Sudan Airways is mainly composed of 1950s-era Soviet aircraft. Some planes have no navigation, lighting, or are missing critical pieces of landing gear. Sudan is a very dangerous country for internal air travel.
Entering Sudan via personal car is also challenging. Sudan has a highly militarized border with its neighbor Egypt and Westerners run into problems at the border if they wish to cross.
Bus travel is also not without its issues. Some buses are better than others - some are excellent, with icy-cold AC and complementary drinks, others may be less salubrious, e.g. sitting in a hot bus (did we mention no A/C?) with jabbering Egyptian tourists for nearly an entire day.
Personal safety edit
There is almost no likelihood of being physically attacked (mugged) for your possessions, but keep an eye on your things in public places, e.g. street cafes. Sometimes thieves operate in pairs: one distracts you while the other makes off with your stuff. There have been cases of pickpocketing in Sudan as well
Women travelers edit
While solo women will raise a few eyebrows, travel may be relatively safe (in areas unaffected by civil war) if they dress and act appropriately for an Islamic country. Traditionally, women in Sudan wear loose flowing robes due to restrictive laws against wearing trousers and short or tight skirts; thousands of women are arrested and flogged for indecency every year, and laws can be applied arbitrarily.
In general, it is best for women to travel in groups, and even better, with men.
Police and army edit
You will see armed policemen and military personnel everywhere but you will not have any problems with them unless you have infringed some rule, e.g., taking photographs or filming in prohibited areas. Sudanese police are sometimes known to target travelers for bribes.
Sudan has very strict rules about taking pictures. As this is a Muslim-majority country, people place a huge emphasis on personal privacy.
To take pictures in Sudan, you must have a permit from the government.
Photographing or filming military personnel or installations is a quick way to get into trouble.
LGBT travellers edit
Sudan is not a safe destination for gay and lesbian travellers; in the 2019 Arab Barometer Survey, only 17% of Sudanese people said that homosexuality was socially acceptable.
Open display of LGBT behaviour may result in open contempt and/or violence.
Stay healthy edit
Sudan is a malarial region, so be especially cautious during the rainy season. Poisonous snakes, spiders and scorpions are common in the southern areas.
Be cautious when drinking water. Make sure you choose bottled water, or use purifying tablets. Also, avoid any fruit drinks, as they are obviously made with the local water. And remember, that any ice cubes (for example, in sodas) are only frozen local water.
On long trips (particularly during the hot season) on public transport it is often impossible - or would be expensive - to carry the amount of bottled water you need, and it may be scarce at certain remote stops. Therefore, keep plenty of your chosen means of purification close at hand (not in your luggage strapped to the roof!). Sanitation in some areas is nonexistent, so wash your hands frequently.
Food from streetside vendors is generally fine if it is being prepared and served frequently. Empty restaurants and street cafes often indicate that food is standing uncovered and unrefrigerated for hours at a time.
Sudanese currency is notoriously dirty, and even the Sudanese handle small bills as little as possible. A hint would be to carry antibacterial wipes or gel in your luggage to treat your hands after handling filthy currency notes or shaking too many unwashed hands.
Sudan reported Ebola outbreaks in 2004 and it is not advised to take local hospital treatments unless there is a real urgency. If you have malaria-like symptoms, seek medical assistance when possible, medical treatment is also available in many private clinics with high standards and reasonable prices. Here are some of these private clinics: (Doctors clinic, Africa St, Fidail medical center, Hospital road Downtown, Yastabshiron medical center, Riyadh area, Modern medical center, Africa St, International Hospital, Khartoum north-Alazhary St)
Schistosomiasis/Bilharzia - Avoid bathing or walking through slow-flowing fresh waterways. If you have been in contact with such water or develop an itchy rash or fevers after your return, seek medical attention. Doctors in the West may only think to test you for malaria - you may need to see a tropical medicine specialist.
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Sudan during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
In general, the Sudanese are hospitable, sociable people. They consider it shameful to give someone a poor welcome, so you can expect to be treated with immense respect as a tourist.
Basic etiquette edit
Always use your right hand when shaking hands, bringing something to someone, and so on. The left hand is considered unclean in Sudan. It would be considered impolite to use your left hand to offer something to someone.
The Sudanese are not known for being punctual, which can be very surprising to visitors from countries where punctuality is highly valued. Lateness does not imply rudeness or a lack of interest; people have a casual approach to time.
It's common for the Sudanese to turn up to a place unannounced. When this happens, stop what you are doing and attend to your guests.
The Sudanese take relationships very seriously and they view them as long-term commitments. The following tips will come in handy:
- If you've been invited to a Sudanese home, you will often be showered with tea, coffee, and snacks. Refusing any of these would seriously offend the Sudanese and it could get them to think that you do not appreciate them or their hospitality.
- Social visiting and hosting have a lot of importance in Sudanese society. Not visiting someone for a long time and/or not talking to someone for a long time could get someone to think that you do not value the relationship you have with them.
- Sincerity and genuineness are highly valued in Sudan. Don't say something if you don't mean it. Don't say "next time" if there isn't going to be a "next time".
- Generosity is highly valued in Sudan. Offering someone a ride, helping them out with something, and the like will be greatly appreciated by the locals.
- Always return favours. If a Sudanese person asks you for your help, you are expected to follow through with it.
Religious sensitivities edit
- See also: Islam#Respect
Sudan is a Muslim-majority country. From 1973 to 2021, Sudan was governed by a form of Sharia law. The new government has been making an attempt to liberalise Sudanese society by separating religion and the state.
During Ramadan, you should refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing in public. Not doing so would be seen as tactless and extremely disrespectful.
Do not under any circumstances show images, statues, or figures of the prophet Muhammad. In 2007, a British schoolteacher was arrested for allowing her class to name a teddy bear "Muhammad" and approximately 10,000 protestors took to the streets in Khartoum and demanded her execution. Although the schoolteacher returned safely to her home country, other related controversies have led to violence.
Dogs are considered to be unclean in Sudan.
Local customs edit
To show the bottom of your foot is an insulting gesture, as is the touching of the thumb to the index finger while extending the rest of the fingers (the North American sign for "O-kay"). Although Sudan is a moderate Muslim culture, foreigners are still discouraged from speaking directly to local women unless spoken to, and even then it would be polite to ask permission from the man accompanying her before responding. Try to avoid physical contact with women if possible.
During conversation, avoid asking direct questions about people's political opinions unless you know the person quite well and sense that they would be comfortable; repercussions could be serious for them. Tact is a necessity in a country that has suffered the trauma of more than 40 years of civil war, and refugees from affected areas are spread around the country, especially Khartoum.
Internet and telephone services remain unreliable and may be blocked or suspended at short notice (Apr 2022).
Sudan's international direct dialling code is 249. Its international direct dialling access code is 00 although mobile phone users in Sudan will be able to dial overseas numbers by putting "+" in front of the country code.
Prepaid mobile phone packages are easily available in Sudan. The two telecommunications companies in Sudan are ZAIN [dead link] (Tel: +249 91 230000) and MTN[dead link] (Tel: +249 92-1111111). Zain has a cheaper prepaid package than Mtn. The customer service line for MTN, should you need to call them for any problems, can be difficult to get through.