Sudan can be an incredibly difficult country to get into,which considering the current political situation is understandable. Traveling on American passports we figured there was no chance of us ever being able to get in. It wasn’t until an Italian couple waiting in line with us for Ethiopian visas told us that they’d heard of a “transit visa” with only a 24 hour processing period.
Fast forward two weeks to Addis Ababa where we were told by the Sudanese embassy that the transit visa is $200 for Americans,and yes, 24 hours to process, but we’d need our Egyptian visas first. Applications in process for Egypt, we went on our way touring the country, only to return to Addis 10 days later to process our Sudanese. Filling out the form we noticed a fill in the blank that we’ve never come across before on a visa application- religion.
To say Sudan and Israel don’t get a long is an understatement. Sudan doesn’t recognize Israel and in fact until two years ago Sudanese passports stated that it was not valid in Israel. If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport Sudan immediately denies your visa application. So what, we wondered would they say if we wrote Jewish? Asking at the Egyptian embassy, the receptionist told us just to lie- you’re from America, just say you’re Christian. An Israeli in the waiting room agreed- why create problems…you’re American so maybe you can just write Capitalist!
Sure it would have been easier, but neither of us were comfortable denying who we are. After much debate, we asked the Consular Officer at the Sudanese Embassy on the day we applied for the visa (but before we handed over the money!) if our being Jewish was a problem. His answer: “No problem.”
Thankfully it was no problem, and 24 hours later we had our Sudanese transit visas in hand. We are nervous heading into a country who’s president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the worst humanitarian crisis (Darfur) in the world while the recent (corruption laden) elections threaten civil war…but we are cautiously optimistic that this is the right decision…to see a country as it is rather than as CNN portrays it.