KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The natural springs are considered a powerful medical tourist attraction in many parts of the world with the surrounding environmental conditions granting them chemical treatment properties of sulfuric substances and different mineral salts gained from the rocks through which the water passes.
Among the most important medical tourist attractions in the Sudan are Ukashah Baths the water of which scientifically proved effective in the treatment of numerous diseases.
The Baths lie on the west bank of the River Nile in Ukashah area in Wadi Halfa Locality in the Northern State, about 777 kilometers north of Khartoum. Their hot sulfuric water flows from the western heights, hills and plains towards the Nile.
Some patients go to those baths for both treatment and tourism. They are hot sulfuric baths for treatment of several diseases that include chronic joint inflammation, rheumatism, muscular inflammation, gout, functional neurotic diseases, vitiligo, leprosy, acne and many other diseases.
Dr. Sidahmed Ahmed, head of Biology and Biotechnology section, Faculty of Sciences and Technology - Al-Nilain University, attributes the curing properties to several reasons that include the heat loving bacteria (thermophilic bacteria) but most likely is the existence of the sulfuric substances and hydrogen base (pH) of the water.
He added that Al-Nilain University presently conducts, in partnership with the University of Medical Sciences, an important study financed by the Higher Education that is basically aimed at isolating the high temperature-resistant bacteria that are naturally found in Ukashah Baths for the production of DNA enzymes from these bacteria.
The scientist added that these bacteria may be having desirable qualities such as production of very useful enzymes locally to save the state a lot of foreign currencies.
He said they have managed to isolate around 50 kinds of those bacteria, some of which can produce anti-biotics against harmful bacteria.
However, Dr. Sidahmed said this requires further studies so as to reach concrete results.
The building of those sulfuric baths for treatment goes back to the era of Nubian King Kashta, the founder of Napata Kingdom, in 1250 BC and their construction continued in succession until the Turkish era.
Those public utilities were drowned in the Egyptian High Dam flood in 1978. The government, with assistance of the inhabitants of the region, located and dug new springs and built rooms as good as the previous ones. But in 1998 another High Dam flood submersed the spring and the whole place.
The bathrooms sank again and remained under water for nine years with the silt accumulating till it reached the level of the walls surrounding the bathrooms which entirely disappeared and could not be easily located.
However, an international company in 2006 began restoration of the bathrooms, exerting all efforts for locating the place of the spring and, after an intensive search, it succeeded in locating and digging it. Unfortunately, before the work was finished, the Nile overflowed and the spring drowned once again.
The ancient baths had a number of springs and each one was about 3.5 meters long, 2 meters wide and 1.5 meters deep. The water came up from under the ground from at least two sites and the water that welled up from the springs was at the temperature of about 45C.
Due to the ill-disposal of the Nile water as a result of sinking under the High Dam Lake and frequent floods, the inhabitants dug new springs west of the old ones in a relatively high site. Yet the disposal problem still exists, according to a preliminary report based on the above-mentioned study of Al-Nilain University.
The Director of Ukashah Philanthropic Organization for Treatment with Hot Sulfuric Water (UPOTHSW), Mutwakil Sidahmed Ukashah, told SUDANOW that work continues for rehabilitation of the old spring and improvement of the area of the bathrooms.
He added that there are research and studies being prepared by governmental and private universities and post-graduate studies for benefitting from the properties of the spring. The research and studies are aimed at supporting and rejuvenating the baths which have suffered long negligence.
A feasibility study was carried out two years ago for establishing a medical tourist retreat in the vicinity of Ukashah Baths, the Director said.
He added that the study is aimed at rehabilitation of the hot sulfuric water spring, besides building and administration of hotel suites and other supportive facilities such as a restaurant, cafeterias, a physiotherapy center and Nubian folklore exhibitions for illustrating the Nubian civilization to foreign tourists and others visitors.
The project consists of medical treatment baths to be built on the site besides residences for hosting the patients and the tourists in addition to small- and medium-size cabanas with mini-kitchens and toilets.
The project is aimed at achieving a suitable profit for the investor through employing his money and experience in desirable activities of providing touristic services and promoting tourism.
The Ukashah Philanthropic Organization was established for rehabilitation and administration of Ukashah Baths and for opening them to freely receive visitors and patients whose diseases can be cured by their water and for reactivation of tourism and for promoting the region economically, socially and culturally.
In addition to publicizing the region, underlining its medical importance and making of it a tourist attraction, the spring of Ukashah sulfuric baths must be preserved as a natural heritage source.
The project is also aimed at upgrading the livelihood and economic standard of the people of the region.
The studies recommend a firm partnership between the local government and civil society and private sectors for development of the region in all aspects, including architecture.
Can the research efforts being conducted by the academic institutions, researchers and civil society organizations succeed in rejuvenation of the medical treatment tourism and in preservation of the royal legacy?
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