Monday, September 29, 2008

Travel: Poor image robs Sudan of tourism windfall

The National (Matt Brown)

MEROE, SUDAN // A dozen 2,000-year-old pyramids rise out of the orange sand like a jagged row of teeth. In the soft sandstone bricks of these ancient tombs, the Nubian people carved pictures of the God Amun with the body of a man and the head of a bird.

On a scorching 41-degree day here in the Nubian Desert, this ruined capital of the ancient Kushitic Kingdom is nearly vacant. Two men with camels wait to give rides to the rare tourist. But the car park is empty. No one is around to buy the carved replicas of the pyramids that a few dusty-haired boys are peddling.

Like Egypt, its neighbour to the north, Sudan has amazing archaeological sites, including pyramids, ruins of cities and ancient temples. Sudan also has game parks teeming with elephants, lions and hippos rivalling those in Kenya.

Unlike Egypt or Kenya, which attract millions of tourists each year, Sudan brings in a meagre 60,000 visitors annually and is missing out on a windfall in tourism revenue. A reputation as an unstable country and a trade embargo have kept all but the most intrepid travellers away.

No comments: