Sudan-Ethiopia, 16 days

Day 1: Breakfast at the hotel and then we do a short tour of Khartoum. We follow the Blue Nile near the Presidential Palace where in 1885 General Gordon was beheaded by the Mahdist troops. We then get near the Catholic Cathedral and Marina Yacht Club. We then cross the confluence between the Blue and the White Nile and we reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see the Mahdi’s tomb from outside and the Khalifa’s House Museum. Late in the morning we begin the journey northward through the Western desert. We travel in a flat desert where the view can span 360° around and we reach Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. We will stop at the “chai houses”, literally tea houses, simply a sort of very Spartan “motorway restaurants”, in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. In the afternoon we finally reach the Nile in the small town of Merowe where, on the other side of the river, there is our NUBIAN REST-HOUSE just at the foot of Jebel Barkal. Dinner and overnight at the Rest House. (B.L.D.)

Day 2: Landmark in the Nubian Desert, Jebel Barkal «Jebel» means Mountain in Arabic can be seen from a few dozen kilometres whilst still in the open desert. At the foot of this wonderful and isolated red sandstone mountain, considered holy since the ancient times, there is a big temple, dedicated to the Pharaohs of the New Reign and to their patron, Amon.  Amon’s ancient “Pure Mountain”, the Olympus of the Nubians, was the religious Nubian heart for more than 1000 years.  Besides the ruins of the big temple there are still several sculptured granite rams that were supposed to border a long avenue that probably led to the pier on the Nile.  In the mountain wall there is a big room decorated with bas-relief. The Jebel Barkal archaeological sites are on the World Heritage list. The Royal necropolis of the ancient city of Napata, the Nubian capital (from 800 to 400 B.C.) before the Meroitic period, had a large number of pyramids, located in three different places: few hundred metres north of Jebel Barkal; a dozen kilometres southwards from the holy mountain, in El Kurru; in Nuri, which is located on the other bank of the Nile.  Lunch in the Nubian Rest – House.

We then move southwards to the village of El Kurru where there is one of the necropolises of the ancient capital, Napata.  Here we can visit two tombs, which are excavated in the rock under pyramids – partially collapsed – and are totally decorated with images of the Pharaoh, of the gods and multicolour hieroglyphic inscriptions. Not far from here there is an interesting site of petrified wood, an ancient forest with hundreds of huge trunks. In the afternoon we also cross the Nile to reach the Pyramids of Nuri. Return to Karima, accommodation at the Rest-House. (B.L.D.)

Day 3:Today we head west across the Nubian Desert to reach the Nile again near the  archaeological site of Old Dongola, where there are the ruins of Chistian Coptic churches. We have our picnic lunch in a Nubian house, to have a close encounter with the local people.  In the afternoon we cross the Nubian Desert again to return to Karima and our NUBIAN REST-HOUSE just at the foot of Jebel Barkal. Dinner and overnight at the Rest House.

Day 4: Not far from the Rest-House we cross the Nile on the new bridge and we enter the Bayuda Desert, an area bounded by the loop that the Nile forms between the 4th and the 6th Cataract and characterised by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys crossed by dry wadis, where little vegetation can be seen. It is very likely to meet isolated groups of Bisharin nomads, who live in familiar groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, with their caravans and herds of camels and donkeys.  After a picnic in the desert, we then reach the town of Atbara, located on the confluence between the Nile and the Atbara River. Here we cross the Nile for the last time and in town we will visit the Railway Museum reach in history of the Colonial time. After the visit, we start driving south on a level ground area where there are many small camel thorn acacia trees as far as we can see. And then, all of a sudden, we can glance at more than 40 pyramids, located on top of a hill, some of them perfectly preserved that belong to the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. Arrival at the permanent tented camp of Meroe with a beautiful view onto the pyramids. Accommodation in comfortable and fully furnished tents, dinner and overnight stay. (B.L.D.)

Day 5: The Royal necropolis of Meroe is located at about 3 km from the Nile on some hills covered by yellow sand dunes.  Several pyramids stand out with their sharp shapes against the clear sky. Each one has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs that show the King’s life and offers to the gods. Lunch at the Camp. In the afternoon we move along the Nile to visit the ruins of the royal city. The excavations confirm that the town of Meroe used to cover a large area and the royal city was located in a central position, surrounded by suburbs and a boundary wall.  Most of the area where the city is located, formed by many small hills covered by red clay fragments, has still to be excavated by the archaeologists. Dinner and overnight stay at the permanent camp. (B.L.D.)

Day 6: After breakfast in camp, we stop in the town of Shendi to visit the colourful and lively market. We continue our journey visiting the two archaeological sites.  The site of Naga is located about 30 km to the east of the Nile and it is one of the two centres that developed during the Meroitic period.  In Naga, in a typical Saharan environment with rocks and sand, we find a temple dedicated to Apedemak (1st century a.D.): a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations depicting the god with a lion’s head, the Pharaoh, noblemen and several ritual images. A few metres away there is a small and odd construction with arches and columns, named “kiosk”, in which we can notice Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles, all at the same time. Not far away we reach another temple dedicated to Amon with many statues of rams and beautiful gates decorated with bas-reliefs. We then go to Mussawarat, not far away from Naga. This settlement is located in a beautiful valley crowned by hills.  Here the ruins of a very big temple are visible; it once played an exceptional important role.  Its main characteristic, the “Great Enclosure” is made by many constructions and boundary walls which surround a temple built in the 1st century A.D.  The large number of elephants represented on these walls makes you think that this animal used to have an important role in this area.  Beyond the big wadi there is another temple – restored by a German archaeological mission – dedicated to the god Apedemak. In the afternoon return to the main road and drive south to Khartoum. Check in at the hotel where rooms are available in day use until 23.30. Dinner free.

Day 7: Arrival in Addis Ababa. Transfer to the chosen hotel. Have a free morning. Afternoon (1400 hrs from the hotel) tour of the capital: visit Entoto mountain with views over the capital, the National & the Ethnographic museums, St George church and the Mercato, biggest open air market in Africa.  Meals free. ON (overnight) hotel

Day 8: Fly to Axum (meet your guide & driver at your hotel 2 hrs before the flight time- as will be done for each flight day-). Ones in Axum transfer to the hotel for check-in. Visit the steles, St Mary of Tsion church (where legend says the Ark of Covenant is deposited), the bath and the palace of Queen of Sheba, and archeological sites. Breakfast can be at the airport or in Axum. Lunch and dinner at the hotel in Axum

Day 9: Drive to Wikro or Hawsen. On the way make very interesting visits, as Yeha pre-Christian temple, DebreDamo monastery (where to reach the monastery men have to climb 16 meters by ropes) and Wikro Cherkos church.Lunch on the way. Dinner & ON lodge

Day 10: Full day visit of the very interesting Tigray region churches, with also spectacular views. Visit Micael Imba, Debre Selam Atsbi and Micael Barka churches. (otherwise can also be Abreha Atsbeha, Degum Selassie and TecleHaimanot Hawsen) Lunch on the way. Dinner at a traditional restaurant in town. ON hotel in Mekele

Day 11: Drive to Lalibela, visiting on the way the very interesting church of Yemerehenna Kristos. Reach Lalibela late afternoon. Lunch on the way; dinner & ON hotel

Day 12: Full day visit of the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, defined as the 8th wonder in the world. Churches built in the 12th century; the African Jerusalem. And late afternoon take part of the coffee ceremony in a traditional house or the hotel. Meals & ON at your hotel

Day 13: Drive to Gondar, the city of castes and churches, defined the African Camelot, admiring very nice views over the Semien mountains. Reach Gondar late afternoon. Lunch on the way; dinner in a restaurant in town or at the hotel. ON hotel in Gondar

Day 14: Morning visit of Gondar: the castles, Debre Birhan Sellasie church (light of Trinity) with wonderful murals, King Fasiladas bath and Qusquam monastery. Afternoon drive to Bahirdar, with views at lake Tana and Amhara people villages. Have lunch at the hotel in Gondar. Dinner and ON hotel in Bahirdar

Day 15: Drive about 1 hr to the Blue Nile falls, then need a 15 mts walk. Admire these spectacular views. Drive back then late morning to BahirdarAfternoon have a boat excursion on lake Tana to admire some monasteries over the lake’s islands, as Asua Mariam and Ura Kidane Mehret, with also visits of an Amhara people village & coffee plantations. Have your lunch at the hotel. Dinner in a restaurant in town. ON hotel in Bahirdar

Day 16: Fly to Addis Ababa & have your free afternoon. Lunch free. Dinner invited in a traditional restaurant with folkloristic dances. Then transfer to the airport for departure

PS: for those that want to join the Omo valley, on this day can proceed with the Omo valley program.

Please note: The above program can be adjusted according to your time, Budget and interest. 

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