I racked up more visits to Sudan than any other country during my five years in Africa. In part it was the story, the unfolding drama in Darfur and South Sudan’s troubled progress towards peace. Gradually it became clear that there was much more to this vast land than war, hunger and misery. As I made friends and learned my way around, the place also became my favourite destination. Here’s why…
- The souks of Omdurman – so you want a lump of ivory, a set of colonial cutlery from Sudan Government Railways or a baby crocodile fashioned into an ashtray? This jumble of alleys is the place to get it
- The scale of Africa – Sudan is the continent’s biggest country and as you look from the aeroplane window en route to Darfur the land seems to stretch for ever
- The sweetest tea – forgive the Economist-style phrasing, but Sudan is the meeting point of Arab and African worlds. There’s no better place to experience both than on a dusty street corner sipping tea flavoured with mint or ginger
- The best fixer in Khatoum – Al Siir will get you out of scrapes, into scrapes and find you the best interviews for your story. Just don’t mention the car
- The hedgehogs of Darfur – not a rebel grouping, but one of many things no-one tells you before you go. These little chaps scuttle under gates to find warm sleeping spots inside houses and aid agency villas
- The most tasteable fish – my Friday morning tradition. Fried fish pulled from a cauldron of seething oil, doused in lemon juice and eaten with a hunk of bread till the juice runs down your elbows
I didn’t ever make it to the pyramids in the north, the whirling dervishes in Omdurman or watch the Nubian wrestlers in action. Any other ideas?