This was my first summer of being a tourist in Sudan: my first time in Khartoum, and my second time in Juba since 2007. Admittedly I did a bit of work in Juba and a conference in Khartoum, but I was primarily a tourist. I visited museums, went to ‘cultural events’, took a few nervous photos; it was a great summer.
Back in the archives, in the more recent documentation now stored with the Sudan Archives, are some older tourism guides issued by Khartoum, including the map above of tourist office locations from the 1967 one (handy blobs).
In Juba, while independence was filled with expressions of definite, positive “diversity”, and groups travelled for weeks to make sure their village or area had dancers representing it, the atmosphere was somewhat dampened for me by the general insistence – at the same time – that everyone had voted for secession, that everyone was SPLM, and that I wasn’t allowed to take photographs of anything that wasn’t cultural or positive.
The policing of my tourism was the dominant theme in my visit to Khartoum; it took me 6 hours to get out of detention and potential deportation at the airport, for starters. I was careful not to take photos of the new Defence Ministries (but the naval one, I think, is shaped like a cruise ship, and there’s another building with a fin like a jumbo jet that I hope is the air force offices?). But on the other hand, it appeared that the cultural tourism side of Khartoum – the Ethnographic Museum particularly, but also the National Museum, and Omdurman in general – had been left to its own devices, particularly financially, and so I was also left to myself there.
It’s always been very annoying and upsetting to me that two countries with such a rich and diverse social and historical life have pursued cultural and political reductivism as far as they have, and I hope places like the Ethnographic Museum in Khartoum and events like the Southern Dances Day in Juba after independence aren’t politicked out of existence entirely.