An ancient Sudanese proverb says that when Allah created Sudan, he laughed in delight. In recent years, there has been little in this harsh, beautiful land to make anyone smile.

Although droughts plague its desert regions, Sudan has remained embroiled in one of the longest-running wars in the world—a civil war that has brought bloodshed, chaos and famine to the country, off and on, for more than 40 years. The White and Blue Nile Rivers join together amicably at Khartoum, its capital, but everything else in the country seems prone to bitter separation—the Arab Islamic north from the black Christian/animist south, the southern tribal factions from each other.

The statistics from the war are heartbreaking: 2 million dead, and virtually the entire population of southern Sudan (approximately 6 million people) displaced from their homes. Yet, just as the war between the north and south of Sudan ended, a new war broke out in the northwestern Darfur region. Needless to say, until the fighting is over, travel in this region should be left to war correspondents or workers with relief agencies. What makes the current situation particularly sad is that in past trips we have found the Sudanese to be among the most cordial and open people in the world.

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