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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 21:58 GMT
Bright future for Port Sudan
The Harbour at Port Sudan through the breakwaters of the Red Sea
Port Sudan could link African hinterland with Europe

The famed coastal city of Port Sudan has a rather faded look these days, but is hoping for a big revival in its fortunes.

A series of economic developments, combined with renewed prospects for tourism, are making the difference.

From this March, Sudan's landlocked neighbour, Ethiopia, will be moving almost all its exports and imports through Port Sudan.

Sudan is beginning to fulfil its role once again as the main port not only for Sudan, but also for the wider African hinterland.

Busy port

It could well be part of a wider revival for Port Sudan, a city of around a million people, which has clearly seen better days.

The years of economic and political isolation for Sudan and its Islamist government have taken their toll, as has the devastating 19-year-old civil war between the north and south, the longest-running in Africa.

The Hilton Hotel in Sudan
Sudan is now open to international investments

However, Port Sudan had remained busy even during the lean years serving as the main port of the country.

It is a crossing point for pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and also for livestock.

The Sudanese exports of crude oil, which began just over two years ago, have now reached 230,000 barrels a day.

This is piped directly to tankers from a terminal just south of Port Sudan.

All the activity is leading to renewed bustle in Port Sudan, and the city now boasts a gleaming new international hotel.

The authorities are looking at developing air links from the port directly to Europe.

Ocean treasures

The return of tourism, after years of political isolation and economic decline, would be a big prize.

Camel in Port Sudan
Camels continue to attract tourists

In the Red Sea beyond the harbour lie coral reefs and some of the richest marine life in the world.

It has long attracted divers and underwater photographers, including the famous Frenchman Jacques-Yves Cousteau and German Leni Riefenstahl.

A boatman who takes divers out to the coral reefs, Captain Abdul Halim Mohamed, told me why the area off Port Sudan is particularly rich in sea life.

It is the widest part of the Red Sea, and the plankton driven by strong sea currents through the narrow Gulf of Aden begins to settle on the sea bed in the quieter waters off Sudan.

Environmental fears

Captain Mohamed said further north off the Egyptian coast, pollution had spoiled the marine environment. The captain, who used to be in the merchant navy, helped found a Red Sea conservation group.

He welcomes the new economic activity, but says his group is concerned about the dangers of pollution and is working with the local authorities to try to contain these.

Captain Mohammed told me the biggest thrill for divers out among the coral reefs was swimming with sharks.

He assured me there were no dangers here because "all Red Sea sharks are friendly ones".

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Africa
24 May 01 | Middle East
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