Sudan: Month 33

The border crossing by land from Egypt to Sudan is done either by boat once a week, or now by bus that also has about an hour ferry ride across the Nasser lake, which is beautiful.  Buses leave very early in the morning 5 or 6am  from Aswan (Egypt), to the border and crosses into the Sudanese gateway town of Wadi Halfa. The trip wouldn’t take too long at all, but the bus journey is quite the adventure.
Since the Egyptian pound devalued so much in the last few years after the Arab Spring Revolution, many Sudanese cross the border into Egypt to buy goods, especially electronics.  I mention this because when you get on the bus you find yourself surrounded by big boxes of electric goods that sometimes even occupy seats on the bus. When the bus arrives at the Egyptian border they make everyone get off the bus and take everything through customs and immigration which takes 2-3 hours for some reason. And then when you get to the Sudanese side they repeat this process which takes the same amount of time.

The good news is that when you do finally get to Sudan you encounter some incredibly friendly people. I even was given a welcoming cup of tea while I filled out the paperwork at immigration (that’s one of the only down sides to visiting Sudan, that there’s a bit of bureaucracy involved such as registrations, entrance/exit permits, etc…besides the visa that you have to get before going to the country).

From Wadi Halfa I went to Abri, a nubian village (an ancient African Kingdom) along the River Nile and spent a few days exploring the surrounding villages and nearby ancient ruins based from an amazing guest house I found. Magzoub Nubian Guesthouse. While the town of Abri doesn’t have a lot to tourist attractions to keep you there, the really friendly people that live in the town and the villages around it make it a really charming place to get a feel for the country and culture.

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From there I went to Karima, a town next to a mountain called Jebel Barkal, that has some impressive ancient pyramids with beautiful deserts and mountains that was part of a kingdom ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and later of the African Kingdom of Kush.
Like most of my time in Sudan I didn’t see other tourists and I actually had the pyramids all to myself and it was amazing.

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From there I made my way to the city of Shendi, which is the closest town to the famous Meroë Pyramids, which are the biggest tourist attraction in the country. It is a collection of around 40 pyramids that were tombs for the (explanation of the Meroe pyramids). After having taken a long walk from the local bus that left me in a nearby village and exploring the pyramids in the blazing sun, I got really lucky and had a wonderful experience on the way back.

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I was going to hitchhike around 30 minutes to Shendi to go pick up my backpack and take a bus to Khartoum (the capital) when only the second car I asked for a ride stopped (sometimes hitchhiking makes you wait a long time, so this was a treat). On top of it, it was a nice air-conditioned car with a really nice Sudanese guy who spoke great English. His name was and is Nazeer and he told me he was going to Khartoum, and that we could stop to pick up my bag and he’d give me a ride to Khartoum. He also invited me to lunch (I tried to invite him and that didn’t work) and we stopped and had tea and became friends during the ride and he even dropped me off at the apartment of my Couchsurfing hosts place!  Amazing and typical Sudanese hospitality, kindness and generosity.

I spent a week in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum that flew by in the great company of my Couchsurfing hosts place and I got my visa for Ethiopia (even though they gave me quite the scare and initially told me that I had to request the visa from Colombia before I insisted and bothered them until they gave  me the visa! :), explored a bit of the city, markets, museum and even managed to play some football that made me happy, but the highlight for me was a Sufi drumming ceremony (Sufism is a branch of Islam considered Islamic mysticism and is often associated with the use of music and dance to connect with god) that takes place Friday afternoons in the area of Omdurman.

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From Kharthoum I went south to the town of Qadarif, where I stayed with a friend, Abu Baker, who I had met in Wadi Halfa on my first night in Sudan and he had invited me to stay with him and his family in Qadarif. I had the pleasure of being shown around town and introduced me to his friends and family and got to see some more Sufi ceremonies and I even got in on the singing and dancing with my friend Adam who I met In Egypt and ran into in Qadarif.

At the last minute I decided to go to a town in the east of Sudan, next to the border with Eritrea (foreigners can only get a visa if you fly into Eritrea which counted me out, as I want to do all of Africa by land) and I was very glad that I went to Kassala. It has these big beautiful mountains surrounding the town that are incredibly picturesque as are the different clans that are present and visible in Kassala.

I saw more colorful fabrics that the women wear and also don big nose rings like those I saw in India, men that let their hair grow longer and carry swords, and facial scarring and tattoos.

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While I´ll admit Sudan is a country I was a little nervous about coming to before crossing the border from Egypt. Most people such as myself only remember hearing about Darfur, and a conflict in Sudan (and some might even know that in 2011 the southern part of the country broke off and became and independent country, South Sudan, which is still in turmoil). However, I must say that I never once felt unsafe while I was in Sudan. It is an interesting country that is a buffer zone between the middle east and Africa and a combination of both.

It also has more pyramids than Egypt and a few other beautiful places, but the best thing Sudan has is its people. It is home to some of the most welcoming, kindest and friendliest people I have encountered. They are very quick to greet you and give you a warm smile and handshake or pleasantry. I found some of the most transparent and genuine people. During my stay in the country received nothing but kindness, enthusiastic greetings and smiles and countless invitations and gestures of generosity.

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Additional Information:

Nubian culture
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nubia

Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur.
https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/whats-the-difference-between-sudan-and-south-sudan/

Jebel Barkal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jebel_Barkal

Meroë Pyramids
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mero%C3%AB

Sufi, Sufism
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sufism

2 thoughts on “Sudan: Month 33

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  1. great to hear that you made it to this part of the world that we don’t get to hear much about… unless it’s about war. This is one of those places that I would love to visit but must admit, I would be very intimidated to go there as a solo female traveler. Curious… Did you meet any women traveling there by themselves? glad all continues to go well for you! keep’em coming! :). big hugs amigo!

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    1. Thank you Cata, Indeed it is not very visited as I crossed paths with very few other travelers, but I did meet a Spanish girl who was backpacking on her own coming up from South Africa to Egypt. Big hug amiga linda!

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