Sudan – the Republic of Sudan, a state in East Africa


The bird is a symbol of Sudan.

The secretary bird, symbol of Sudan. The author of the photo is Daniel Clanon.

The Republic of Sudan is a vast state in northeast Africa, one of the possible birthplaces of human civilization. The troubled and far from safe place on the black continent cannot be found in the ranking of popular tourist destinations. Nevertheless, true travelers overcome all kinds of bureaucratic obstacles in order to experience the identity of Sudan, explore the harsh landscapes and plunge into the ancient culture. The paradoxical way of life, diverse nature, harsh desert climate, numerous pyramids and complete absence of entertainment industry – the country beckons with its mysteries and possibility of modern geographical discoveries.

Geographic location of Sudan

Jebel Marra, Sudan

Jebel Marra, Sudan. Photo by Joshua Owens.

Sudan is located in the northern part of the African continent and has access to the Red Sea. The length of the coastline is about 850 km. On land, it borders on Libya, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic. The Red Sea becomes a natural border with Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Until 2011, the state was the largest in Africa in terms of area. After South Sudan gained sovereignty, the situation has changed. Sudan is now in third place after Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Most of the territory of Sudan is a desert plain, surrounded in the east and west by mountains between 300 and 1 thousand meters high. The highest point of the country is located in the north. It is the extinct volcano Jebel Marra with a height of 3071 meters (according to the latest measurements of the scientific expedition). The plateau is cut almost in half by the Nile. Along the river are built the main cities of the country, including the capital Khartoum. The administrative, economic and cultural center of Sudan is located at the meeting point of the Blue and White Nile, which gives the city a huge advantage. In particular, large farms and power plants are concentrated in this area.

In the north of Sudan are the Libyan and Nubian deserts, areas almost completely devoid of vegetation. Only occasional stony-sandy landscape is diluted with oases, solitary semi-dry trees and grasses. In the center of the country the terrain is not so bleak. Here, for many kilometers stretch savannah with sparse forests, turning into jungle in the south.

Near the Red Sea coast the desert country is transformed. Lush tropical vegetation creates paradisiacal corners. Wild beaches, pristine nature, lack of tourists attract adventurous divers, dreaming to enjoy the beauty of the underwater world in a little-explored corner of the earth.

Desert Heat

The Bayuda Desert, Sudan

The Bayouda Desert, Sudan. Photo by anilegna.

The weather in Sudan is hardly pleasant for the European inhabitant. A tropical continental climate prevails throughout the territory, with a transition to the equatorial desert climate in the south. The year-round high temperatures are maintained here. Average values are +25 … +35 °С in summer and +19 … +23 °С in winter. Very rarely the temperature drops to +15 ° C in the Nile Valley. In deserts, fluctuations are more dramatic. For example, in winter the temperature can drop to +4 ° C, and rise to +48 … +55 ° C in summer. Temperature fluctuations are accompanied by large-scale sandstorms.

Precipitation in Sudan is a real luxury. There is almost no rain in the deserts – less than 100 mm per year. In the south of the country and the Red Sea coast the situation is more favorable. Between April and October, 500-1000 mm falls here. Despite the arid, desert climate, the heat in Sudan is tolerated surprisingly well. Low humidity eliminates the effect of the sauna, even in the hottest heat is easy to breathe, compared with the tropics.

Sudan: from man of reason to man of war

Pyramids, Meroe, Sudan

Pyramids, Meroe, Sudan. Photo by Valerian Guillot.

The history of Sudan began with the development of the civilization of Homo sapiens. Archaeological excavations carried out on the Nile confirmed the settlement of the valley by humans as early as the Paleolithic era, more than 60,000 years ago. Mesolithic and then Neolithic peoples were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding and were ethnically very close to the population of Egypt, until complete “Egyptianization” during the incorporation of the Nile Valley into the Pharaonic kingdoms.

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The general history of Nubia, present-day Sudan, is marked by the military and cultural influence not only of its immediate neighbors, but also of overseas colonizers. Important eras in the development of the vast African territory are in one way or another associated with forced migration, armed conflict and the unification of parts of the state. Historians distinguish five major periods:

Antiquity .

Duration – from the 25th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. This time is characterized by the development of the ancient kingdoms of Kerma: unification of all the peoples of the Nile, formation of trade routes, formation of cultural traditions, in particular unique funeral practices (burial in pyramids), and complete domination by Egypt. The end of the centuries-old era is marked by the creation of the Kingdom of Meroe, the conquest of Nubia by the Romans and the establishment of the cult of the Sudanese gods: Dedun – “the first of Nubia”, Apedemac – “the great god of the South”, Arsenoufis and Mandoulis.


After the fall of Meroe (350) there were several Christian kingdoms in Sudan: Nobati (350-650), Makurie (500-1285), Alodi (350-1504). All of them from 1150 to 1450 were united to form the Kingdom of Dongola. The competent foreign policy of the kings, excellent relations with neighbors, and alliance with the Turks brought the country to the highest stage of development. All conquests were won not by blood but by diplomacy, which explains such a long stability in the turbulent Middle Ages.

Islamic period

Sunrise, Dongola, Nuba Desert, Sudan

Sunrise, Dongola, Nubian Desert, Sudan. The author of the photo is Mohmed Abohazim.

It began in 1315 with the campaign of Egyptian Muslims, members of the militia, against the last Christian king of Dongola Kerenbes. The occasion was the refusal to pay tribute. In 1317 the Cathedral of Dongola was officially converted into a mosque. The Islamization of the elites began. In 1484 Amara Duncas (1484-1526) founded the kingdom of Sennar (or Sinnar) and then annexed the kingdom of Alodi in 1504. He ruled between the White and Blue Nile by a people composed of Arabs and Nubians. Remarkably, an economy based on the export of gold and ivory became exclusively slave-based. Pagan tribes living in the west and south were exported from Sudan by the thousands. The Islamic period lasted until 1895 and was characterized by brutality, fanaticism, huge taxes, and endless changes of oppressive rulers. This allowed Britain to invade the country and impose its laws.

British Colonization.

In 1896 an Anglo-Egyptian expeditionary corps under General Kitchener captured Dongola. In 1898 the Franco-British incident at Fakoda occurred. The two colonial powers managed to avoid armed confrontation and agreed on zones of mutual influence. The British had Egypt and Sudan, the French had Mali. The new borders of Sudan completely ignored religious and economic ties. The result is more than sad. For more than a century, the country has been burning in a civil war. In 2011, internecine strife led to the secession of South Sudan, which after a referendum became an independent country.

The Republic from 1956 to the present

In 1953, a treaty between Britain and Egypt recognized Sudan’s right to self-determination. In 1956 the country became independent. At the same time, the first rebel movements appeared in the southern regions of the country. The militias demanded independence. The civil war lasted for 17 years. As a result of the conflict more than 500,000 people died. But even the end of the conflict in 1972 did not eliminate the tension between the north and the south. The war escalated again in 1985 and lasted until 2005. But it was not only the conflict with the separatists that undermined Sudan from within. Revolutions, overthrow of the dictatorship, establishment of a parliamentary regime, defeat of the Communist Party, demonstrations against the introduction of UN peacekeepers – every year there are large-scale military incidents in the republic, thousands of civilians become victims. The people of Sudan rightly demand better living conditions. About 20 million Sudanese (almost half of all citizens) live below the poverty line. And without a lasting, stable peace, the situation cannot be changed.

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Sudan Tourism

Khartoum, Sudan

Khartoum, Sudan. The author of the photo is Bedriddin Shutta.

Endless war and strict religious dogma have virtually shut Sudan out from the outside world. The country’s tourism potential is limitless, though. There are such valuable historical artifacts that archaeologists around the world are justly worried about their safety. The most interesting sights of Sudan:

  • Khartoum. The capital was founded by British colonists in 1821 as a military outpost at the confluence of the tributaries of the Nile. It was named after the curved strip of land, the shape of which resembles the trunk of an elephant. Today it is the largest city in Sudan. Only here you can get acquainted with the simple but incredibly tasty Sudanese cuisine, explore the colonial heritage by the interesting architecture of the center and visit the only museums in the country: the National and Natural History. There are unique collections of earthenware, glassware, figurines, sculptures from the ancient kingdoms of Kerma and Egyptian kingdoms, medieval frescoes from destroyed Christian cathedrals, musical instruments, clothing and cooking utensils.
  • The Sabaloka Gorge, formed by a tributary of the Nile, is the only place in Sudan where the great river does not dry up in times of drought. The picturesque cliffs, waterfalls, and small lagoons make a lasting impression.
  • Omdurman is an African metropolis of more than a million people. Here Sudan opens unvarnished. The famous local market is famous throughout the black continent. Priceless decorative items made of ivory, ebony, silver and gold, which in Europe can only be bought in antique stores, are made in front of rare foreign visitors. The cost of such jewelry depends only on the ability of travelers to haggle.
  • The city of Meroe, an ancient settlement, is located on the eastern bank of the Nile. It is here, in the desert, is the world’s crown jewel – a giant complex of funerary pyramids dating back 3,000 years. In contrast to the “promoted” Egyptian tombs, here you can touch, examine closely the ancient frescoes, inscriptions, statues. Total in Sudan is perfectly preserved about 220 pyramids.
  • Jebel Marra is the highest peak in northern Sudan. The height of the giant is 3,000 meters. The extinct volcano is surrounded by lush landscapes. Waterfalls, lakes, plains covered with dense grass. The area is idyllic.
  • El Obeid is an ancient city in western Sudan. A picture from a historical movie about Africa comes to life for travelers. Half-ruined Catholic cathedrals, numerous mosques, and national Arabic houses – even a simple walk through the town is a great pleasure.
  • Port Sudan is a major seaport built by the British in 1905. The only city in Sudan, which has almost entirely retained the European architecture, which looks very exotic against the background of the surrounding nature and the locals.
  • The resort of Arusa is a favorite destination for divers. Service and infrastructure is completely absent, as well as good hotels or guest houses. But therein lies the charm of the sea town. Nature and the underwater world are in pristine condition.
  • Karima is a perfectly preserved historic town in Sudan. Here you can admire the ancient ruins of the palaces of the pharaohs, mango gardens, numerous ruins of the pyramids, reduced copies of the Egyptian colossi.

You can explore Sudan indefinitely. The large distances between each piece of nature paradise or historical area creates the false impression that the country consists exclusively of sand and stones. Therefore, it is worth arming yourself with maps, guidebooks or live guides from the locals and falling in love with Sudan every 80-100 kilometers.

Sudan in selected facts

Port Sudan, Sudan

Port Sudan, Sudan. Photo by Colin Jones.

The splendor of Sudan remains closed off from the world. Only a few travelers dare to explore the country. The country is on the list of states that support terrorism, a number of prohibitive measures have been taken against the republic, in particular on international banking transactions and the use of foreign technology. Therefore, the Internet, cell phones, hassle-free refueling, ATMs, hotels and other familiar attributes of modern life are as rare here as precipitation.

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The European tourist, who by some miracle finds himself in the country, may encounter other paradoxes of local life:

  • Sudanese are very hospitable and welcoming. Many can understand and speak English. But friendliness can instantly turn into overt hostility if the topic of religion, war or way of life is broached.
  • In Sudan it is forbidden to take photos or videos. You need a special permit for that. Even with a permit, you are likely to end up in the local prison if you shoot in prohibited areas, which include all streets, government buildings, military vehicles, rare public transport, and markets. You can only take pictures of nature, local museums and that’s it.
  • It is forbidden to bring alcoholic beverages of any strength into the republic. Moreover, it is forbidden to drink contraband alcohol in any place, including your own hotel room. If you break the law, you are immediately deported or sentenced to several days in jail or a hefty fine. And the locals are happy to turn in the offender. “Snitching is well developed and encouraged by the authorities.
  • There is only one luxury five-star hotel in Sudan. It is located in Port Sudan and is called Corral Hotel. Book a room here only after opening a visa. The rest of the country’s hotels are of medium and low level. They are rarely found in large cities.
  • In order to travel around Sudan by rental car or public transport, foreigners must obtain a travel permit from the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife. Keep in mind that there has been no rail, sea or river transportation in the country since 2012. Periodically, the authorities try to run public transport over long distances, but another military upheaval nullifies the good intentions. So the Nile or Red Sea can only be traveled by private boats.
  • Most of the roads in Sudan are not landscaped. They are just tracks in the desert or on the plains. But they are all toll roads. Tolls are charged to the destination. For example, Khartoum to Meroe. If you plan to go further, you will have to pay for the next section of the road.
  • Foreigners with a valid or invalid Israeli visa may not enter the Republic of Sudan. Therefore, if your passport has a stamp of entry into Israel, you can forget about visiting the African state.
  • All the significant attractions of Sudan are outside the capital city of Khartoum. But when entering the country every tourist is strongly advised not to leave the city. Militias often kidnap foreigners for the purpose of robbery or international blackmail. The only way out is to travel in a group, with reliable local guides and guards. All this entails additional costs, and not a small one at that.
  • Obtaining a visa for Sudan is an uncertain and often lengthy process. Terms and conditions will vary from embassy to embassy. There are no rules. But there are a few tricks that experienced travelers use. For example, you can arrive by boat from Egypt in the northern city of Wadi Halfa. The police issue a transit visa in a couple of hours. The time frame depends on how you travel through the country. Or you can book a room at the Acropole Hotel (Rotana or Corinthia) in Khartoum and use the facility’s visa services. Within a few days, the hotel will send a confirmation that the tourist visa is open. The service is chargeable, with about $300 added to the cost of accommodation.

A visit to Sudan should be carefully planned and considered. Although the beautiful, extraordinary country is attractive to foreigners, it poses a very real threat. So it is better to decide right away whether it is so important to see with your own eyes the ancient pyramids and unique landscapes, if there is a risk to life. But to be fair, it is worth specifying that the Sudan is dangerous only near cities and towns. The rest of the deserted territory of the country is of no interest even to its own people, so it is relatively safe, provided that the elementary rules of conduct in an Islamic country are followed.

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Sudan. Photo by Mohamed Abohazim.


Sudan on the world map

Sudan on the map of the world

Geographic location of Sudan

Sudan is one of the largest countries in Africa. Its neighbors are Egypt to the north, Libya to the northwest, Chad to the west, the Central African Republic to the southwest, South Sudan to the south, Ethiopia to the southeast and Eritrea to the east. Sudan also has access to the Red Sea.

Geographical position of Sudan

The geographical location of Sudan

Natural zones and climate of Sudan

The vast territory of the country implies a great variety of landscapes. On its territory, there are two deserts, the Nubian and the Libyan Desert, with very modest vegetation. But in the south of the country are located tropical forests. The center of the state is occupied by sparse forests and savannas.

The climate is predominantly tropical and very hot. The Nile River flows with its many tributaries throughout the country and in the south runs next to the banks of arid dense vegetation and incredibly hot and humid rainforests.

Sudan’s Economy

The economy of the country is gradually developing. Among the industries, agriculture is the most lucrative. Although only 5% of Sudan’s land is suitable for farming, two thirds of the population is engaged in it. The major agricultural crops cultivated in Sudan are millet, sorghum as well as dates.

Sorghum in Sudan

Sorghum in Sudan

Sorghum is a cereal plant grown in East Africa. It is the 5th largest producer in the world. It is undemanding, requires no special equipment for growing, and gives good yields.

It is rich in nutrients and vitamins and is a valuable source of carbohydrates and proteins. Sorghum is widely used for the production of cereals, flour and starch.

In addition to agriculture, Sudan is involved in the processing of cotton and agricultural products.

Sudan’s subsoil is rich in oil and is actively producing oil.

Sudan’s Oil Fields

In the north of the country there are flat-roofed houses and in the central plains there are round thatched huts.

The industrial center of the state is Northern Khartoum, where the food and textile industries are developed.



The city of Omdurman, west of the White Nile, is considered the center of commerce.



The roads of Sudan leave much to be desired, for movement through them is quite difficult. For example, dirt roads are washed out during the rainy season. As for the railroad, it runs in 3 directions: east of Ethiopia, west of the Kordofan Plateau and southwest to Zaire.

Population of Sudan

The inhabitants of Sudan are mostly the descendants of Arab traders and Nubians, who once lived in ancient Egypt. The Dinka, Shilluk, and Nuer peoples live in the south, and the Nuba and Bedja peoples live in the north.

Sudan is a Muslim country, and more than 70% of the people are Sunni Muslims.

Sudan’s Attractions

In Sudan, the tourism infrastructure is just beginning to develop, but the proximity of the Red Sea with its incredible underwater world and amazing coral reefs is one of the main attractions of the country.

The Coral Reefs of the Red Sea

Coral Reefs of the Red Sea

In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, you can visit the National Museum, the University of Khartoum Library, and the Palace of the Republic.

National Museum in Khartoum, Sudan

National Museum in Khartoum, Sudan

There is also the Khalifa House Museum, Gezira Farm.

Bey Al Khalifa House Museum

Bey Al Khalifa House Museum

And there are several Greek restaurants, as well as establishments where you can try the cuisine of the Middle East and of course the dishes of international cuisine. Among the local dishes, the most common is boiled corn with vegetables and various additives. Another attraction is the camel market.

Southeast of Khartoum is Dinder National Park, one of the largest in the world, where you can see lions, leopards, antelopes, giraffes, seabirds, pelicans, kingfishers, storks, elephants, etc.

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Elephant in Dinder National Park.

Elephant in Dinder National Park

Another attraction located near Khartoum is the Great Wall Complex – the ruins of ancient buildings that date back to approximately 3rd century BC.

Great Wall” archaeological complex

Another interesting place to visit is the ancient city Omdurman which seems to be frozen in time. In Omdurman you can visit a local bazaar where you can see firsthand the masterpieces of Sudanese arts and crafts, taste sweets and spices.

Omdurman Market

Omdurman Market

In this town there is one of the most revered attractions in the country – the tomb of the ruler of the country Mahdi. What makes the city even more mythical is the mosque of Hamed Alla Niela around which various rituals take place.

In Port Sudan, which is not far from Khartoum, you can enjoy beautiful seascapes. The city also has a seal of contact with the Soviet Union, which can be recognized in many buildings.

Port Sudan

Port Sudan

In Jebel Marra, the highest place in Darfur in western Sudan, you can enjoy the beauty of nature with waterfalls, volcanic lakes.

Jebel Marra

Jebel Marra

History of Sudan

The territory of Sudan was known to the ancient Egyptians as far back as 3500 BC under the name “country of Kush”.

During antiquity, the land was known as Nubia, inhabited by Semito-Hamitic tribes. There was practically no mention of the southern part of the country.

Until the 8th century BC. Nubia was subordinate to Egypt.

Later, several small kingdoms sprang up in what is now Sudan, where Islam gradually began to come along with the Egyptians. They came to these places in search of emeralds and gold.

One of the most famous was the independent Makurra Kingdom. It emerged in the 6th century A.D. and existed until the 14th century.

Another state on the territory of modern Sudan was Alwa, which in 1500 was seized by the Fuja tribes and organized on this site the Sultanate of Sannar. The sultanate became the main center of Islam. But because of disagreements, the entity was severely weakened and was captured in 1820 by Egypt.

Later there came a time when Sudan was simultaneously under British and Egyptian control.

In 1885 a rebellion led by the Mahdi broke out.

Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi

Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi.

Khartoum was captured and Charles George Gordon, a British general who ruled as Egypt’s representative, was executed.

Charles George Gordon

Charles George Gordon

Two years later, Sudan was once again under Egyptian and British control.

After World War 2, a national liberation movement emerged in Sudan. As a result of its actions in 1951, Sudan received the right to full self-government.

On November 12, 1955 the country gained independence, and in 1956 the Republic of Sudan was proclaimed.

In 1969, there was a military coup. Colonel Nimeiri came to power and remained in power until 1986.

Jafar Nimeiri

Jafar Niemeyri

Free elections followed, but in 1989 the country was overtaken by another military coup and General Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power.

General Omar Hassan al-Bashir

General Omar Hassan al-Bashir

A civil war broke out and ended in 2011 with the division of Sudan into 2 countries: Sudan and South Sudan.

Interesting facts about Sudan

There are so-called “ghost marriages” in Sudan. The essence is that in the country it is allowed to marry the dead. Often this opportunity is used by pregnant women in order to legitimize their child from their deceased lover.

The name of the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, is translated from Arabic as “elephant trunk”. This name arose from the location of the city, which appeared on the Cape Ras al-Hartoum, which means “The tip of the elephant’s trunk.

It is interesting that on the territory of Sudan, according to the calculations of archaeologists, there are more pyramids than in Egypt.

Pyramids of Meroe Sudan

The pyramids of Meroe in Sudan

Until 2011, the state was the largest on the entire African continent, after its partition into two parts – it ceded its positions to Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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