Khartoum

Khartoum and the Blue Nile

Khartoum (Arabic: الخرطوم Al-Khartum) is the capital of Sudan and is located where the Blue and White Niles merge to form the Nile. The huge, spread-out city is actually made out of three distinct cities (Khartoum, Khartoum North or Bahri, and Omdurman) which are divided by the Nile and its two arms. The Blue Nile flows between Khartoum and Bahri, the White Nile between Khartoum and Omdurman, and the merged Nile between Bahri and Omdurman. The confluence of the Blue and White Nile, known as Al-Mogran, lies just north of the bridge between Khartoum and Omdurman.

Khartoum proper is the seat of the Sudanese government and is the largest of the three cities. The older part of the city lies beside the White Nile while the newer parts, such as Al-Amarat and Khartoum Two, spread out to the south, across the railway line and the ring road, and around the airport runway. The city, both the old part and its newer extensions, is laid out mostly in a grid. Omdurman has a more Middle Eastern atmosphere with maze-like streets and is home to the huge Souq Omdurman. Bahri is largely industrial and residential.

Market in Khartoum
A Sudanese shop

Get in

Visa

All visitors to Sudan need a visa and a passport as well as $500. Please see the Sudan page for details.

Permits and other legal requirements

Remember that all foreigners are required to register within three days of arrival. You will also need a permit to take photographs.

You don't have to have a travels permit if you're just traveling north of Khartoum. Elsewhere you will need it though.

By air

Khartoum Airport (KRT) is the main gateway into Sudan by air. The airport is served by various European, Middle Eastern and African airlines. Among the cities with direct connections with Khartoum are: British Airways (with connections to London), EgyptAir (Cairo), Emirates (Dubai), Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa), Gulf Air (Bahrain), Kenya Airlines (Nairobi), KLM (Amsterdam), Lufthansa (Frankfurt), Qatar Airways (Doha) Turkish Airlines (Istanbul, on Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays).

Sudan's national carrier Sudan Airways links Khartoum and several African and regional capitals, as well as with Sudan's domestic airports at Port Sudan, Nyala, El-Fashir, Malakal, Juba, Dongola, Wadi Halfa and El-Obeid.

While departing from Khartoum, airport tax is SDG 35 for international departures which must be paid before you check-in. The counter for airport tax (small signboard) is on your left after you pass the first security check when you enter the airport building. Go early as the airport can get a bit chaotic. Be prepared for long waits and queue cutting. Immigration checks and other security checks can also take a long time.

There is a bank facility to change money open during the night when there are flights.

Getting there/away: Khartoum Airport is located close to the city in Al-Amarat. Taxis should cost SDG 5-15 to any spot within the city, although locals may pay less. You can also walk out to the main road about 200 m from the airport terminal and catch minibuses that cruise along the road.

By road

The main tarred road goes south from Khartoum to Wad Medani then east to Gedaref (for the Ethiopian border at Gallabat), Kassala (for the Eritrean border, currently closed) and then to Port Sudan. South from Khartoum, a road also goes to El-Obeid, which then continues west towards the Chadian border via Darfur, which currently is a bit dangerous to use. From the north, the road comes in from Wadi Halfa via Atbara.

There are no road links to southern Sudan. The only option is to fly.

By bus

The chaotic Souq al-Shaabi (GPS 15°31'44.45"N, 32°32'34.85"E) used to be the main bus terminal for long distance south-bound buses in Khartoum, but a new terminal has been built which is more orderly. Buses leave for Port Sudan, Wad Medani, Kassala, El-Obeid and other cities. Going north long distance buses leave from Omdurman. Again, there are no buses to southern Sudan.

By train

Railway lines link Khartoum with Wadi Halfa and Port Sudan via Atbara. Trains leave Khartoum main train station is in Khartoum North (Bahri).

By boat

There are no boat services along the Nile to destinations outside Khartoum.

Get around

Khartoum is both easy and difficult to get around. It is easy in that much of the city is laid out on a grid, with long straight roads and the airport and Nile as easy reference places. It is difficult in that the city (or indeed the 3 cities) are very spread out, making walking a long and tiring option.

Maps are hard to come by, but Google Earth offers some good high-resolution images.

By taxi

These come in three flavours; bright yellow and often beaten up Toyota Corollas Model 1977, small 6 seater minivans, and modern comfortable air conditioned metred cabs (operated by LimoTrip 00249 183 591 313 or info@limotrip.net - rates are reasonable by meter only and saves the haggling; the cabs are also radio controlled). Apart from metered taxis, taxi drivers always overcharge the foreigner and SDG 10 is the usual starting price for negotiations for short trips around town.

Fair 'foreigner' prices for taxis are roughly:

Crossing the river will usually double the price. From the city center, they may ask for SDG 15-20 to go to Afra Mall. To get the 'Sudanese' fare, you need a bit of luck and be prepared to walk away when drivers refuse to drop to a reasonable price. Remember that petrol is around SDG 7 a gallon so drivers can make a profit even on a SDG 2 fare.

Finally be aware that most taxi drivers speak no English, can't read maps, and often can't read Arabic either; they often even have little idea about Khartoum's geography, especially about other parts of the city to where you pick him up.

By minibus

Minibuses are the cheapest way to get around Khartoum, especially between the three cities. There are easily thousands of minibuses and seeing all of them gather near the Great Mosque and Souk al-Arabi is a sight to behold. They are however quite complicated to use. None of them bear destination signs and you will have to be able to speak a little Arabic with their conductors to determine which minibus to take. They are also always packed to the brim. Fares are always less that SDG 1, even cross-river.

Most of the minibuses leave from the square near the Great Mosque (Mesjid al-Kabir) or nearby in Khartoum proper.

By car

Describing Khartoum's traffic as chaotic is a bit of an understatement. The current economic boom has seen many more cars on the road, although driving attitudes have not changed, resulting in almost comical chaos at intersections. As Khartoum is laid out in a grid, there are many intersections for cars from all directions to barge in to fight for space. Having said that, the slow speed of vehicles ensures that they are very few major accidents, at least in the city. If you are not used to such driving conditions, it is better to resort to taxis.

Car hire is available and costs a bit above the African average, around 150 SDG per day for a Corolla, and 300 SDG for a 4x4 (with compulsory driver). However if you want to head off in to the desert the costs mount further, as the 100 km is standard, and then its 1 SDG per additional kilometre, hence a trip to the Meroe pyramids adds 400 SDG to your costs. Fuel, however, is cheap, at around 1.8 SDG per litre (March 2008). ‘Limousine’ is the Arabic for car hire – try along Airport Road or Ibed Khetim Road (east of the airport) for car hire places.

By three-wheeled taxis

Called "bajaj" (like in India) or "raksha", they are cheaper than taxis but more expensive than buses so less than 5 SDG per trip. They are best used for short trips within each of Khartoum's three cities. It is better to use taxis or minibuses if you have to cross the Nile to travel between the three cities.

By boat

There are no ferry services between the three cities as they are well connected by road bridges.

There is a ferry service between Khartoum proper and Tuti Island, a rural islet in the middle of the Blue Nile. In Khartoum, boats leave from the river bank along Nile Street opposite the Friendship Hall to the west of the city center. A ferry also runs between Tuti and Omdurman (except on Fridays)

See

Khartoum (الخرطوم)

Nile Street and the Grand Holiday Villa Khartoum.

Omdurman

Bahri (Khartoum North)

Do

Clubs

There are many professional and international clubs spread around the three cities. Providing for sport, cultural activities or simply a place to meet, they are a lively remnant of British influence.

Cultural centers

In the evening

Music

Movies

Buy

Most shopping is still done in street markets or souqs. The souqs here are not as attractive those in other Middle Eastern countries but are still interesting enough for a glimpse of Sudanese economics. And you can certainly buy everything you need, including handicrafts if you are a tourist, from these markets. Prices are not amazingly low due to transport costs for imported (mainly Chinese) goods, but cheaper than in Afra Mall or proper shops. Upmarket, Khartoum has only one shopping mall with a supermarket, several shops and food outlets.

Khartoum

Omdurman

Khartoum North (Bahri)

Eat

Khartoum has a good sprinkling of restaurants, with new ones popping up every couple of months – other than restaurants attached to hotels there is little quality eating to be had in Khartoum’s city centre. Amarat hosts the majority of the better eateries, although Ridyah and Khartoum 2 also have some places. Omdurman and Barhi have a light sprinkling of simple restaurants. All restaurants have about 15% government tax and 3-14% service charge.

Amarat

Khartoum 2

East of the airport

Bahri

Downtown

Omdurman

Drink

Sunset in Khartoum.

It's best to prepare yourself to be alcohol-free for your stay: there are places serving 'special tea' dotted around and non-alcoholic beers are available, but in general it's more hassle than it's worth to track down alcohol during a short visit. For long-termers, however, the market does exist - via diplomatic bags and other routes... apparently.

Sleep

Note that a 5% tourism tax and 15% VAT may well be added to your bill - Khartoum's hotels are inconsistent in telling you about these taxes in advance, and (especially for cheaper hotels) inconsistent in paying this money to the tax authorities. Remember to ask if there are any hidden extras before booking.

Budget

Mid range

Splurge

The Burj al-Fateh tower.

Cope

Embassies and consulates

Go next

Jebel Barkal.

The ruins around Gebel Barkal include at least 13 temples and 3 palaces, that were for the first described by European explorers in the 1820s, although only in 1916 were archeological excavations started by George Reisner under a joint expedition of Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston. From the 1970s, explorations continued by a team from the University of Rome La Sapienza, under the direction of Sergio Donadoni, that was joined by another team from the Boston Museum, in the 1980s, under the direction of Timothy Kendall. The larger temples, such that of Amun, are even today considered sacred to the local population.

For these reasons, the mountain, together with the historical city of Napata and other ancient sites, were considered by UNESCO, in 2003, World Heritage Sites.

Buses leave daily from Khartoum to Kerma, However the most comfortable and convenient way of getting there is by Car. The route is tarmaced,but you will still require the best part of a day to get there.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, September 13, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.