In July, I finally got all my visas in Addis Ababa, and I was ready to continue traveling. I was actually in kind of hurry after that because the Sudanese visa was only valid for one month and I had to travel to both Djibouti and Somaliland before that.
Countries Visited: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somaliland, Sudan, Egypt = 5
Cities / Towns visited: Ethiopia: Addis Ababa, Lalibela; Djibouti: Djibouti City, Lake Assal; Somaliland: Hargeisa, Laas Geel; Sudan: Khartoum, Meroe; Egypt: Aswan
New Countries: 4
Country Count: 89/197
Visiting Lalibela in Ethiopia
This was a number one thing for me to do in Ethiopia and even though I wasn’t able to travel around much in the country (read more below on challenges), I still got to make a trip to Lalibela to see Ethiopia’s famous monolithic rock-hewn churches.
Being the Only Tourist in Somaliland
To be honest, I was probably the only tourist in Sudan and Djibouti as well, but Somaliland still felt the most special one for me. Somaliland is a self-declared state, an autonomous region of Somalia. While Somalia itself can be a dangerous place to visit, Somaliland is safe, so I traveled to the city of Hargeisa and based myself there. The Somali people were hospitable and friendly, and also very curious to know why I was traveling to Somaliland. Very unusual travel experience but I would recommend it to all seasoned travelers. Somaliland really became one of my favorite places in Africa!
Seeing the Pyramids in Sudan
Did you know that there are actually more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt? Sudan is not a country where a lot of people travel, and the visa can be difficult to obtain (especially if you’re from the US) so seeing the pyramids there felt special. Visiting the pyramids in Sudan wasn’t without its challenges, though. The pyramids are located in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and I also happened to be there at the hottest time of year. As soon as I left the main road and started climbing the dunes to get to the pyramids, I felt like my feet were burning. The sand was so hot that it literally felt like boiling water and I only had flip flops. My feet kept sinking into the sand when I was trying to move forward. When there was only one dune left, I decided to jump down because my feet were hurting so much. Guess what happened next? I lost my other flip flop somewhere in the sand, and spend the next 15 minutes on my knees digging the sand and trying to find it. I knew that I couldn’t make it out of the desert without my shoes because the sand was just too hot. There were also no people anywhere to be seen who could have helped me. Now I can just laugh about it, but at the time I felt like I was dying there.
Extremely Hot Weather in Djibouti and Sudan
Djibouti and Sudan are not places where you would like to travel in the summer because the temperatures can rise up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 F). But I did travel to both countries anyway, and even though I never complain about the hot weather, now it was a little too hot even for me. I visited Lake Assal in Djibouti which is a salt lake below the sea level (a bit similar to the Dead Sea), and it was impossible to go swimming there because the water was boiling hot.
Not Being Able to Travel Around in Ethiopia
I didn’t get to see much of Ethiopia because I spent almost the whole time just waiting for my visas in the capital city, Addis Ababa. When I finally got all my visas, I was just so relieved that I wanted to get out of Ethiopia and I even didn’t have time to travel around anymore because Ethiopian visa is only for a month. I still want to travel back there to see more of the country, but now I was just happy to get out of the rainy and gray capital city where I had spent way too much time.
Djibouti is an expensive country, and because there were also no other tourists at the time I was there, I had to do everything alone by taking a taxi. Because of the high prices, I didn’t spend that long in Djibouti, and besides the capital city, I only traveled to Lake Assal. This lake is probably the most popular tourist destination in the whole country, but I was still the only one visiting the place. It reminds me a lot of the Dead Sea in Jordan, and it’s also possible to float there if you go swimming but like I mentioned above, it was too hot for swimming. Still, a very beautiful place and a must visit if you ever make it to Djibouti!
Laas Geel is the most famous tourist attraction in Somaliland, located on the rural outskirts of Hargeisa. There you can find the oldest cave paintings in the Horn of Africa, and the views from the caves are spectacular. You need an armed guard with you if you want to travel outside of Hargeisa, so it’s also expensive if you’re traveling alone. I was hoping that other travelers would come to Hargeisa, but after a few days, no one had come, so I just decided to go there anyway. And it definitely was worth it!
From Sudan, I took a bus to Egypt and Aswan was my first destination there. I later on traveled to many other places in Egypt, but Aswan remained as my favorite. The city wasn’t too big and crowded, but just the right size and walking distances were reasonable. The Nile River was beautiful, and I loved watching the sunset by the river or taking a boat to the nearby islands.
July wasn’t the month for hotels because Djibouti was so expensive that I stayed at the cheapest dump I could find (and I still paid almost $40 for a poor room without a bathroom or any facilities), and Somaliland doesn’t really have luxury hotels or cool hostels either. There was still at least one worth mentioning!
Corinthia Hotel Khartoum, Sudan:
This is by no means the best hotel in Sudan! Even if you’re not staying here when visiting Khartoum, go there to have a dinner and watch the sunset. The Nile views are absolutely beautiful, and it’s one of the highest buildings in the city. There are great vegan options at the breakfast buffet and also for dinner. I also tried the room service menu and even that included some vegan options which is usually not the case so big props for that! The whole hotel is also air-conditioned which is important in the heat of Sudan. I had a beautiful and spacious room with a Nile view and staying at this hotel really made my time in Sudan.
A Beautiful Sunset on the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda
Addis Ababa after rain, Ethiopia
A Camel in the Somali Desert
Coming up in August 2017
As I’m awfully behind with my monthly recaps and it’s already September, you can read my next monthly recap probably next week. In August though I traveled more in Egypt before flying to Eritrea – my final country in Africa this time. Then I did a quick stop in Dubai before going back to Europe.