I went on a 30-day trip in December 2022 and January 2023 to leave the Icelandic winter behind me for some time. The trip had four main parts: visiting Sudan and Kenya; visiting friends, colleagues and relatives in Hungary and the Czech Republic; a family holiday in Tenerife and a business trip to Senegal, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.
I had a total of 18 flights, booked mostly as one-ways and one double open-jaw. Here’s my final list of flights after many cancellations, changes of departure time and aircraft type:
Keflavík to Paris CDG, Icelandair, economy class, B757 (no flight report)
Paris to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A321
Istanbul to Khartoum, Turkish, business class, B737
Khartoum to Addis, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B737
Addis to Nairobi NBO, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B777
Nairobi WIL to Mombasa to Lamu, Skyward Express, economy class, Q300
Lamu to Malindi to Nairobi WIL, Safarilink, economy class, Q200
Nairobi NBO to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A330
Istanbul to Budapest, Turkish, business class, B737
Vienna to Tenerife South, Wizzair, economy class, A321
Tenerife North to Gran Canaria, Binter Canarias, economy class, ATR42
Grand Canaria to Dakar, Binter Canarias, economy class, E195
Dakar to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class, A320
Banjul to Freetown, Air Sénégal, economy class
Freetown to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class
Banjul to Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc, business class
Casablanca to Paris ORY, Royal Air Maroc, business class
Paris CDG to Keflavík, Play, economy class
The only direct flight from Europe to Khartoum in Sudan is with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul. Other major airlines offering direct flights to Khartoum include Egyptair from Cairo, Ethiopian from Addis, Kenya Airways from Nairobi, Qatar Airways from Doha, Emirates from Dubai and Saudia from Jeddah and Riyadh. Regional or low-cost airlines flying to Khartoum include Air Arabia from Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Cairo; flydubai from Dubai, flynas from several airports in Saudi Arabia and Nile Air from Cairo. Sudan Airways, the national airline of Sudan does not seem to offer any flights currently. Badr Airlines and Tarco Aviation, two other Sudanese airlines offer regular flights within Sudan and also to some airports in Africa and the Middle East. All Sudanese airlines are currently banned to enter the airspace of the European Union. They cannot be booked online from abroad.
I originally booked an open-jaw flight with Turkish from Budapest to Istanbul to Khartoum and from Nairobi to Istanbul to Budapest as it was the cheapest option in business class from Europe and the fare was refundable. But the flight from Budapest to Istanbul was cancelled; I asked for a full refund and I was lucky to be able to book a flight from Paris for a price only slightly higher just two weeks before departure. The flight from Istanbul to Budapest on the return leg was also cancelled and rebooked to later; I originally had a connecting time of one hour in Istanbul and it was changed to eight hours.
My inbound flight from Paris arrived to gates A at Istanbul Airport and my connecting flight to Khartoum left from gates F. This is the furthest possible distance at the airport.
Istanbul airport is huge but well designed and easy to use although it can get crowded at times.
I was supposed to have a connecting time of two hours and I expected to spend some time at the lounge. I had to skip the lounge however as my inbound flight was late, the time to walk from the arrival gate to the departure gate was about 30 minutes and I wanted to be on time for my next flight. I also knew that I would have a connecting time of eight hours on my way back so I would have enough time for the lounge (see my flight report from Istanbul to Budapest for a detailed review of the lounge).
I like that the departure board is in three languages: Turkish, the language of the destination (including Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese, Hindi and other writing systems) and English.
My entry permit to Sudan was checked at the entrance of the gate. Most passengers seemed to be people of Sudanese origin living abroad, many of them travelling on a British or a US passport.
Boarding started at 20.15 with many wheelchair passengers. The next two groups were business class passengers and economy class passengers seated in the back of the plane. Boarding was well organised although some of the agents were not friendly.
Many economy class passengers were asked to check in their hand luggage as the flight was quite full. Business class passengers were allowed to keep their hand luggage.
As the other passengers were boarding, almost all of them Sudanese, so many of them were smiling! It was a very good sign before my trip.
This plane has four rows in business class in a 2+2 configuration with a total of 16 seats. The business class cabin had 12 passengers, two pilots and two empty seats next to them.
The cabin and the seats looked older than on the A321neo on my previous flight. They were nevertheless very comfortable with an even bigger legroom.
A noticeable difference was that the screens were not in back of the seat in front but in the armrest.
A welcome drink was offered. I choose the lemonade as always.
Headphones were distributed.
Boarding was completed at 20.53.
A man in seat 1A put his seat down, his bare feet up on the window and was speaking very loudly on the phone. He didn’t notice he was disturbing everybody else onboard - a sharp contrast with all the other passengers.
Push-back was at 21.01 for a scheduled departure time of 20.55. We took off at 21.14 from runway 36.
A nice amenity kit was offered a short time later.
The menu cards were distributed shortly after. A choice of three main courses was available. No alcohol was offered on this flight (alcohol is usually not available in Sudan although it’s legal for non-Muslims to consume it).
A hot towel was offered a few minutes later.
Meal service started 55 minutes after take-off. The appetizer, the salad, the cheese and the cake were served on a tray.
Mozzarella and grilled vegetables was served as an appetizer. It was OK.
Seasonal salad, Selection of Cheese and Lemon Tart.
The main courses were offered quite some time later from a trolley. Orders were not taken in advance – passengers were asked what they wanted when the cabin crew got to their seat with the trolley.
Fillet of beef cutlet, gnocchi with Café de Paris sauce.
The meal service was good but not up to the usual standards of Turkish Airlines' catering in business class.
The cabin crew was friendly and professional.
Packed hazelnuts were offered later on.
I slept towards the end of the flight. The seats are comfortable for seating but cannot be converted into a flat bed.
The cabin a short time before landing.
We landed at Khartoum Airport at 00.00 for a scheduled arrival time of 23.55.
A separate minibus was available to transfer the business class passengers to the terminal.
Our plane as seen after landing.
My entry permit was prepared in advance by my Sudanese travel agent. I picked up my visa at the airport at the cost of $100. Note that only recent USD banknotes are accepted.
I spent four days visiting Sudan: an extremely interesting country yet it gets very few tourists. It’s safe to visit and the people are friendly.
Khartoum’s most famous building is the Corinthia Hotel, the most luxury hotel in the country.
I stayed one night at the Bougainvilla Hotel. The price is about one third of what you’d pay at the Corinthia yet it’s perfectly comfortable and has an excellent restaurant.
I also stayed at the Hotel Acropole for one night. It is not luxurious or good value but is historical: it’s been in business since 1952.
Khartoum Airport is in the middle of the city. Some old planes are stored on its eastern side. Have you ever heard of Sudanese States Aviation?
Some of the taxis are very old. Most people use rickshaws, not taxis.
The confluence of the Nile’s two tributaries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile at Khartoum.
Tuti Island on the Nile is a very peaceful place.
Omdurman is on the west bank of the Nile opposite or Khartoum. Omdurman market is a very interesting place.
Tea is everywhere.
Nuba wrestling is a unique sport.
Kids watching a Nuba wrestling competition.
A street scene near Khartoum.
A shop near Shendi.
Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.
Accommodation in the desert near the pyramids.
Visiting the camel market near Khartoum was one of the highlights of my trip.
The new Istanbul Airport is huge but well designed. I couldn’t go to the lounge this time – see my flight report from Istanbul to Budapest for a detailed review of it. The plane was comfortable for an evening flight of about four hours. Catering was good but not excellent as on my other flights on Turkish Airlines. The cabin crew was professional.