Dunqulah Things to Do
Once you've walked up and down the main drag of Dongola a few times, and wandered around the palm groves, there really is only one other thing to do...take the ferry over to the opposite bank of the Nile. The ferry is a rather rickety old beast which crawls its way through the currents, delivering donkeys and students to the university and transport station (you can decide which goes where!!!). No there is supposed to be an ancient temple a few minutes walk away, but when we asked for directions people told us it was too far to walk, and the taxis were charging khawaja prices....I wish we'd just gone exploriong on our own, as it is not far away, but we listened to the local advice and missed out on all ruins in the area! Other than ruin-hunting, all that remains is to sip tea in the bus station and wait for the ferry back. If you are trying to travel south to Karima or north to Kerma, then this is the place to catch your bus.
Go for a walk...I know I say this for almost every place I visit, but really it is the best way to get to know a place. Dongola is a bit of a one-camel town, so it won't take long for you to get a feel for the place, then you can head out of town to one of the nearby villages via the palm groves. Most likely, you will be invited to someone's house for tea or to look at their fruit plantation...people here are extremely friendly. Often we found it difficult to walk here...as soon as anyone saw us walking, they would stop and say "why are you walking, we'll give you a lift", then ended up giving us a tour of the town in their car! You have to be persistant in your refusals if you really want to walk, although that might be seen as rude...better to accept and experience genuine Dongola hospitality.
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Heading north for Wadi Halfa and Egypt?
As always, you'll have the three options; bus, lorry and boksi. There's a bus at least once a week to Halfa from Kermah (3 hours north of Dongolah by boksi), but it is TOTALLY crammed, and VERY rough! Usually 24 hrs from Halfa to Kermah. By some dubbed the worst busride in Africa, but then again - who trusts a travellers tale...?
With boksi, you'll probably have to break up the journey in bits, for instance: Dongolah-Kermah-Abri-Halfa.
The most attractive option in my opinion is the lorry option; sitting on the roof as the lorry snails its way along the Nile and through breathtaking Saharan landcape and primitive villages, this journey is best made in three days (travelling 8-16 hours a day).Related to:
- Budget Travel
You have to options from Khartoum. Either you can take the luxury SafSaf Express bus which bumps its way across the desert direct to Dongola, or you can take an ordinary bus which also bumps its way across the desert but takes a much longer route. SafSaf Express is quite a strange beast, a sort of converted lorry, but the seats are cushioned, so at least you have a softish landing whenever you are thrown into the air. It takes nine hours to get to Dongola, six of them crossing the desert on a rough track during which it does not stop in case it gets stuck in the sand...make sure you empty your bladder at the rest stop after 3 hours!! The second type of bus takes all day, and can be comfortable if you can get a seat at the front...if you are late booking and can only get a seat at the back, seriously think about booking a different seat on the next day's bus. We didn't, and suffered bruises, grazes and insomnia from being thrown two feet in the air everytime the bus hit so much as a pebble!
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Dunqulah Off The Beaten Path
Dongola is fairly off the beaten path, but you can still avoid those backpackers by heading off to Dongola's suburbs...it doesn't take long to get away from the town centre, and soon you are in semi-rural communities where traditional farming methods are carried out. People are incredibly hospitable, and we had many invitations every time we took a walk anywhere in Dongola.