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Most cities in Sudan are surprisingly safe — especially when compared to other urban centres in Africa.

However, it always pays to be on your guard, particularly after dark and around the market areas. The local Sudanese say that incidences of petty theft have been on the rise in recent years. House break-ins are also becoming more prevalent. Due to the obstacles with banking in the country, many people stow their money under mattresses or between cushions — providing ripe pickings for the burglar.

As in urban environments the world over, begging is a common sight in Sudanese towns and cities, especially around marketplaces and bus stations, and it is increasing. Many of these beggars come from countries outside of Sudan such as Chad. The beggars are persistent but rarely threatening.

Sharia law was introduced into Sudan in 1983 and still applies to the North (although not to the South).

This means that certain crimes, which may seem trivial by Western standards, carry with them harsh penalties.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) sought to prevent sharia law from being applied to non-Muslims. However, since July 2011, the CPA is no longer enforce and it remains to be seen whether sharia law will now also apply to those not of the Muslim faith. President Omar al-Bashir has said that it will, but others in his government are taking a softer line.

The best advice is to always be on your guard and to avoid doing anything that might bring you into conflict with the authorities. If you are imprisoned, there is only a limited amount that your national government can do to secure your release.

Sudan has both capital and corporal punishment. Crimes that carry the death penalty include murder, armed robbery, prostitution and drug trafficking. Under the sharia legal system, the penalty for consuming alcohol is 40 lashes. Possession and distribution of pornography is also prohibited.

There have been reports in Khartoum of Westerners being arrested and accused of spying. It is always best to be on your guard and to be careful about where you are pointing your camera, especially near government and military areas.

There remains a slight threat of terrorism in Sudan. Al-Qaeda terrorist cells are believed to exist in the country, and there have been recent threats made towards Western embassies.

Always keep in mind the political situation in the country, and pay close attention to the news to see if things are likely to change. In 2005, following the death of the charismatic rebel leader John Garang (p64), there was widespread rioting throughout Sudan. In September 2007, rumours that Salva Kiir, then the vice-president of Sudan, had been killed sparked fears of fresh rioting.

You should register with your national embassy when you arrive in Sudan, and keep in touch throughout your stay.

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