Take a trip out to el Ain where the reservoirs are. There are , if I remember correctly , three. When we were there two had dried up and the third had very little left, so the town was being rationed and only getting water for a short time each day.
However, in the rainy season the reservoirs fill up and are most attractive, drowning the trees and surrounding area.
Victory Park is is quite a good social place at night (see nightlife) and it's named after the Mahdi's defeat of the Anglo-Egyptian forces of Hicks Pasha.
The Mahdi's nationalist and religious forces captured El Obeid in January 1883. With a large following in the area they quickly turned it into their capital and the base for their uprising. Sensing the importance of the town the Egyptian rulers sent British officer William Hicks to lead a force to regain El Obeid after he'd led a successful campaign in the town of Sennar south of Khartoum.
This task was a bit bigger though and after nearly dying of thirst on the way over the Kordofan desert, Hicks' mostly Egyptian soldiers were ambushed just south of El Obeid. Nearly all 7000 of his force were killed and Hicks himself was speared to death and then had his head cut off.
It was a very important battle - the Mahdi went from strength to strength and eventually mounted a successful assault on Khartoum. The park in the centre of El Obeid is named in memory of the fighting nearby.
The museum is like a much smaller and regionally-specific version of the National Museum in Khartoum. There are lots of old artefacts of civilisations from thousands of years ago, going all the way back to the Stone Age, as well as more recent cannons, guns and a chainmail suit from the time of the Mahdi's insurrection against the British. Maybe I'm just a stereotypical guy but I always find the big guns and military stuff more interesting than the old pottery bowls and wooden combs!
Kordofan State was the site of many battles at that time and the official name of the museum is actually Sheikan Museum, named after the site of an 1880 battle.
Opening times are very Sudanese - basically it opens when the guy with the key turns up to open it, and closes when he wants to go home. Officially it opens in the mornings. But if you get there and it's closed, hang about for a bit - he's usually very happy to open up again just for you. After all he doesn't get many tourists!
Depending on who you listen to this is either the biggest cathedral in Sudan or the biggest in the whole of Africa. I'm sure the first claim is probably right but I'm a bit sceptical about the second.
Nonetheless, it is a striking cathedral with its distinctive striped design and unusual colour scheme. Large displaced communities of Southern Christians in the city mean that Sunday services are generally packed and a mix of traditional Catholic service with an entertaining colourful African twist. Inside there are bright paintings and African artworks. Even during the week there are plenty of people hanging around and it's a good place to meet people from the South.
It was founded by Daniel Comboni, recently made a Saint by the Vatican, and one of the Comboni brothers, whose name is still well known in Sudan through their schools and churches over a hundred years after they died. Despite the stripes and colours, probably the most interesting thing about the cathedral is its position - directly opposite the largest mosque in the city in some kind of deliberate religious face-off!
I know, I know, I keep wittering on about souqs being interesting in Sudan, but they are, and I'm not going to change that! El Obeid's central souq is large, although it takes a bit of time to find...for two days, I thought it was centred around a couple of streets selling nothing special, but actually it stretches almost as far as the bus station. All the standard Sudanese things can be bought here, and it is much like any other Sudanese souq, but there is a section for souvenirs, where you can buy some local Kordofan crafts (the bags, so I'm told, are excellent).
A short walk from the cathedral (depending on whether you are given the right directions or not...we weren't, and ended up right the other side of town) is the Kordofan Museum. Entry is free, and the friendly guard will open it all up for you if you arrive a little late ( we got there just before closing time). It contains hundreds of artefacts (bowls, weapons, jewellery) from various archaoelogical sites around Sudan, although strangely not much comes from the Kordofan states, as you would expect. Nevertheless, it is all quite interesting, and actually has excellent notices in near-perfect English for everything. We rushed our visit, because we felt just a little bit guilty about making the guard stay on after closing time...to fully appreciate it, go in the morning!
As a tourist, you won't miss the cathedral...partly because it lies next to the security police office which you will be drageed off to on arrival! Built by the Italians over a century ago, El Obeid's impressive cathedral is, depending on who you listen to, the largest cathedral in Sudan and possibly the whole of Africa. It was founded by an Italian missionary by the name of Comboni, also responsible for several Christian schools in Khartoum. You can wander round the gardens easily enough, and if anyone spots you, they might open up the cathedral doors for you to see inside. The interior is a far cry from the austere stone pillars of Durham or York...it is all wooden and very colourful, with local-style paintings showing scenes from the Bible (obviously!). Outside, make sure you look at the pictures on the back entrance...there is a very small one containing a map of Sudan, shaped like a heart in the middle of Africa. Directly opposite the cathedral is a brand sp[anking new mosque, financed by Saudi Arabia. Unfortunate planning has meant that worshippers in the mosque pray in the direction of the Virgin Mary, who resides in the cathedral's belltower! Surely not deliberate!!!