Sudan, Africa - Stein Travel

Sudan




    • 16+ years

    • 12-15 years

    • 2-11 years

    • 0-23 months


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Welcome to Sudan

'Bilad al-sudan', or 'land of the blacks', is not a country to visit for remarkable tourist sites, but rather for those curious to meet the wonderfully hospitable people or interested in experiencing a culture far removed from most Western societies.

In the north, the Nubian Desert forms a large part of the country, where huge wetted clay water pots are located under every tree or shady shelter for drinking, whereas the narrow strip of land following the length of the Nile River, in contrast, is green and agricultural. The south is characterised by swamps and rainforest. Desert towns have wide, dusty roads, which remain empty for the main part of the day due to the heat. In the evenings, however, streets come alive with movement and colour, the women's vivid wrap-around clothing and hennaed fingers standing out from the crisp, white kaftans and turbans of the men.

Sudan has been afflicted by violent civil wars for nearly half a century, and more often than not makes headlines on most international news broadcasts. Yet outside these conflict areas the country is generally safe to travel in, and those who get there will be treated with extreme courtesy and friendliness. The Sudanese take Arabic hospitality very seriously and it is unlikely that a traveller will pass by without an invitation to share in a meal or to visit someone's home.

Torn into Northern and Southern Sudan by cultural and religious disputes, it is the north that occupies the largest area and includes most of the urban centres, including the capital, Khartoum. The largely Muslim, Arabic-speaking population of this area are proud of their country and will take great delight in showing it off. For those in search of what Sudan has to offer, the peaceful capital at the junction of the White and Blue Niles, and its sister city Omdurman, are good places to begin, with the National Museum, a large souq (covered market), camel market, and the Tomb of the Mahdi. To the north of Khartoum are the ruins of the Royal City of Meroe as well as the pyramids in which the kings are buried. Kassala to the east boasts a wonderful souq known for its local variety of fruit and silver jewellery, and a desert landscape dominated by jebels, or hills. The war-torn south is largely rural and lacking in infrastructure, and holds little of interest for the visitor.


Business

English is widely spoken in business, although a greeting in Arabic will be appreciated. Business cards should be printed in both English and Arabic. Punctuality is unimportant, and it is considered rude to be in a hurry. Sudanese prefer to do business with people they know and trust, so relationship building is essential. Businesswomen travelling to Sudan should let their contacts know in advance that they are female. Office hours are generally Saturday to Thursday 8am to 2.30pm.

Climate

North and South Sudan have very different climates. The north is made up largely of desert and is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 110°F (43°C), while the south has an equatorial climate with high humidity and lots of rain, which falls mainly between June and November. The desert is prone to severe sand storms, known as 'haboobs'. Khartoum's temperature averages about 81°F (27°C).

Communications

The international dialling code for Sudan is +249. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are in use e.g. (0)183 for Khartoum. Outgoing international calls must go through the operator. GSM mobile coverage extends as far south as Malakal, and covers most cities and towns. Internet cafes are increasing in major cities, but can be hard to find outside of these areas.

Customs

Northern Sudan and Khartoum are predominantly Muslim, and local customs and sensitivities should be respected, particularly with regard to dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body, although covering the head is unnecessary. Eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Sharia law applies to Northern Sudan, but not to the south. Travel anywhere outside of Khartoum requires a permit, as do any historical or archaeological sites, and visitors arriving in any town or city are required to register with the police. Photography permits are also required by anyone intending to take photographs while in the country; certain subjects are forbidden. Homosexuality is illegal. Visitors are advised to avoid political discussion.

Duty Free

Passengers over the age of 20 can bring 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, perfume for personal use, and a reasonable amount of gifts into the country without paying any costs. Alcohol is prohibited, as are goods from Israel or South Africa.

Electricity
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50 Hz. Round two- and three-pin plugs are in use.
Health

For health in Sudan, visitors should ensure they are vaccinated against yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis A and meningococcal meningitis. A yellow fever certificate is required by those arriving from an infected country. Malaria is rife, more so in the south of the country, and dengue fever occurs, so precautions against mosquito bites should be taken. An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, spread by mosquitoes, killed over 222 people between November 2007 and January 2008. Cholera outbreaks occur. Water and food-borne diseases are common and travellers should purify drinking water and carry anti-diarrhoeal drugs. AIDS is a growing problem. Medical facilities in Khartoum are adequate for routine problems, but the war has resulted in shortage of many medicines and hospital equipment; visitors should ensure they have comprehensive medical insurance, which should include evacuation by air ambulance.

Language
Arabic is the official language, but English is spoken by those with an education.
Money

The official currency is the Sudanese Pound (SDG), which is divided into 100 qirush or piastres. It is advisable to bring cash, preferably in US dollars, rather than rely on credit card facilities, and travellers cheques are often not accepted. Receipts should be kept after changing money at banks and bureaux de change. Banking hours are from Saturday to Thursday 8.30am to 12pm.

Passport Visa

Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Sudan. Visitors should be aware that if their passport contains evidence of a visit to Israel, a visa for Sudan will be refused, as will entry to the country even if in possession of a valid visa. Only holders of a business visa or permit may conduct business in Sudan. Entry visas are valid for one entry only, unless otherwise stated. Extensions of stays are possible and should be paid at the Ministry of Interior. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

All unnecessary travel to Darfur should be avoided due to the current conflict and unstable security situation, and all travel to the Eritrean border should be avoided. Travel south of Juba is also not advisable. Travellers to Khartoum, in particular, should be aware of a heightened threat of terrorism to Western interests. The crime rate is relatively low in Khartoum and other large northern cities, but banditry in Darfur is widespread.

Time
Local time is GMT +3.
Tipping

Tips are accepted for good service and are usually 10-15% of the bill.


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