If you’ve always wanted to view the pyramids you’ve probably considered a trip to Egypt. But travel company Cox and Kings are now offering British visitors a chance to see these amazing structures in neighbouring Sudan – the largest country in Africa.
Few Britons have ventured to this massive country, which covers over a million square miles. Cox and Kings have introduced Sudan to their holiday brochure for the first time and Nigel Hosking, who is the senior product manager, says there are more pyramids in Sudan than there are in Egypt. While the Sudanese pyramids are smaller, the setting is superb. “They are in quiet, remote areas in the middle of the desert,” says Nigel.
Cox and Kings’ tour offers the chance to see amazing temples and stunning desert landscapes where you can be taken off the beaten track. “Sudan is the land of the black pharaohs and the warrior queens so it has a mystic appeal. These queens were very powerful women and are very clearly depicted on the walls of the temples you see in Sudan. It still has all the cultural and historic heritage that continues to appeal. Sudan has a fascinating history,” says Nigel.
The city of Khartoum will always have an attraction for a British audience. “The road plan is in the shape of the Union Jack and the train system was built by the British. British buildings like the Grand Holiday Villa Hotel provide a reminder of colonial times.” The 160-room hotel was built in 1800 and provided accommodation for Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria. It’s one of the hotels offered by the tour company.
The Mahdi was the Sudanese religious leader who defeated British General Gordon and his troops in Khartoum. The tour takes in his former home. There’s also a chance to see the whirling dervishes who dance every Friday. They gather at the main mosque and sing, chant and whirl around in circular formations in the dust until sunset.
Khartoum is on the confluence of the White and Blue Nile, so there’s an opportunity to take a short cruise on the river to the points where the two rivers converge. “On our tour we stop at the third cataract, which is the name for the rapids,” says Nigel. “The rapids clearly had a strategic importance as a barrier to travel up and down the river. You can see amazing remains of an Ottoman fort that would have policed the traffic on the waterway.”
It’s very much Arabic by appearance and Nigel says guests will feel that they are in the Middle East rather than Africa. The Foreign Office advises against travel to some parts of Sudan, but that doesn’t include regions on this tour. Nigel says he felt entirely safe from the moment he arrived. There were very few tourists when he visited, “But people seemed genuinely pleased to see us,” says Nigel. “My lasting memory will be of the warmth of welcome,” he says. “We made stops at local villages to buy food and coffee and people would come up to us in the street and introduce themselves. They wanted to shake our hands and communicate in some way, even though they had little or no English words.”
Visitors to Sudan will require a visa, which can be arranged by tour operators. But be aware that visiting Sudan might make you ineligible for future travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver system. You may not be allowed entry to Sudan if your passport shows that you have visited Israel. You also need a free permit in order to take photographs.
There’s more information on the Cox and Kings website.