Khartoum, Sudan

Sudan may not be a popular holiday destination, but one trip to Khartoum will leave you awestruck

Khartoum, Sudan
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Once the biggest country in Africa, Sudan is not your typical holiday destination – many people wouldn’t even be able to point to it on a map.

However, the nation’s capital Khartoum is a bustling, flashy metropolis built where the Blue and White Nile rivers meet and its tourism trade is on the up. And with good reason: there are more pyramids than Egypt (without the crowds, too), buzzing markets and souks, fascinating art exhibitions and the chance to sail along the world’s longest river.

The city itself is one of the continent’s safest, with the locals famed for their laid-back attitude and jovial hospitality. And with a flight time of around six hours from Qatar, it should certainly be one of your must-do short breaks.

SIGHTSEEING AND CULTURE
The huge, spread-out city is actually made out of three distinct cities (Khartoum, Khartoum North or Bahri, and Omdurman). Sudan has just as much history as Ancient Egypt, except no one knows about it. Your first stop should be the National Museum of Sudan (www.sudannationalmuseum.com), which has some exceptional exhibits – and you’ll pretty much have it all to yourself, especially if you’re visiting in the morning. The ground floor covers the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Kerma, Kush and Meroe, and houses 3,500-year-old artefacts and statues. Upstairs you’ll find several works of medieval art and murals taken from church ruins, while outside there are temples, stone tomb statues and hieroglyphics. No trip to Khartoum is complete without visiting this.

When booking your trip to the city, be sure to be there for a Friday as you’ll be able to witness the incredible Sufi ritual at the Hamed al-Nil Tomb in Omdurman. Every week at around 4.30pm, a colourful local group of dancing and chanting dervishes draw large crowds with their ceremony. It’s a circus-like atmosphere and starts with a procession towards the mausoleum, with the dancers carrying green banners as they chant, bob, clap and bang the drums. Their robes are a vibrant patchwork of green and red, often topped off with leopard skin, chunky beads and dreadlocks.Tourists are welcome to attend this ritual, and they often do in their droves.

As the night draws in the temperature drops and, much like in Qatar, that’s when the night markets spring into life.

Stay in Omduran and head to the camel market, where the chaos of merchants and buyers, and just generally befuddled out-of-towners, is a sight to behold.

Wander the stalls of Souk Shabi – the most famous and the largest in Sudan. It’s abuzz with noise, activity and colour, and a couple of hours’ exploration is bound to turn up all manner of surprises. You’ll be amazed as you peruse the many food, clothes, jewellery, fabric, homeware and spice stalls.

FOOD AND DINING
One of the best ways to get accustomed with ancient history’s most celebrated stretch of water, the River Nile, is by having some tea at Nile Avenue. With the extension of Nile Avenue to Manshia complete, the stretch of road between Mak Nimir and Manshia bridges has become the place to be for Khartoum’s evening life. Sit on the grass and watch the world go by, as countless tea ladies keep the hot drinks flowing faster than the nearby river.

For one of the city’s best-loved “secrets”, essentially just where the locals love to go, head to Fish Wok (+249 92 222 2352). Tucked behind a row of buildings, chefs serve delicious fish dishes – with some of the country’s best bulti (Nile perch), served with bread and salad.

Or keep it local by heading to Al-Housh (+249 92 481 4002), where Sudanese food attracts everyone from cabbies to politicians. It’s a legendary restaurant where you dine like a king, but pay like a pauper. Fish and meat is cooked over charcoal and the huge dining room is always lively.

Gad (+249 18 346 0856) sells hearty local dishes including roasted meats, shawarma, kebabs and meatballs. And it’s close to the airport for anyone in need of a tasty quick-fix before flying home.

NIGHTLIFE
Khartoum is a Muslim city and is dry, so while the nightlife scene isn’t as lively as other capital cities, there is still a young generation of students who enjoy the nightlife in the city.

Jazz Café (+249 12 200 0200) is a favourite with locals and tourists alike as it’s pretty much the only live music venue in the city. You’ll find local hipsters hanging out with friends and quite often strangers, as they’re famed for their welcoming approach to newbies. There’s an open mic night on Wednesdays and live music almost every night of the week for you to enjoy.

WHERE TO STAY
The Acropole (www.acropolekhartoum.com, +249 18 377 2860) is the oldest existing hotel in Khartoum, founded in 1952, and with that comes an abundance of charm. It’s a run by a Greek family and all the rooms are basic, but clean and tidy. Three rooms have a large terrace and the owners are always happy to help arrange visas. It’s right in the middle of the city centre and guests can enjoy free city tours on Fridays, too. Or try the Khartoum Plaza Hotel (www.khartoumplazahotel.com, +249 18 379 2986) for its central location, large rooms, good wi-fi and excellent buffet breakfast. Like the Acropole, it won’t win any style awards, but it’s clean and tidy enough for anyone keeping costs down. For those on a bigger budget, check in to the Corinthia Hotel Khartoum (www.corinthia.com/en/hotels/khartoum, +249 18 715 5555) where five-star luxury awaits. Spread over 18 floors, the building is a stunning architectural masterpiece, with breathtaking views over the Nile to match its beauty.

GETTING AROUND
One of the easiest ways to get around is by taxi – try Sudan’s Uber-style service Tirhal or Mishwar. Otherwise standard yellow taxis operate 24 hours, although be aware of reduced services on Friday. Ensure you agree the correct destination and price beforehand. For short rides, there are rickshaws, however they are not allowed in Downtown or to cross the bridge.

GETTING THERE
Qatar Airways runs daily flights from Hamad International Airport to Khartoum International Airport. Flights start from around QR3,100 for a return.

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