The Kingdom of the BLACK PHARAOHS (SUDAN) 12 days

Day 1: Arrival at Khartoum airport. Meet and greet with the guide and transfer to the hotel. Check in, dinner not included and overnight stay.

Day 2: Breakfast at the hotel. Late in the morning we start the Khartoum city tour.  We first visit the Archaeological Museum that, besides many beautiful objects, contains two beautiful temples rescued by UNESCO and moved from the Lake Nasser area, when it was flooded by the water.  We then cross the confluence between the Blue and the White Nile near the Presidential Palace where in 1885 General Gordon was beheaded by the Mahdi’s troops and we reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see the Mahdi’s Tomb from outside. Lunch included in a local restaurant on the Nile. In the afternoon we visit the interesting Khalifa’s House which holds a small museum about the Mahdyia (only on Fridays and Saturdays). We then visit the colourful souk of Omdurman. At sunset time we move near the tomb of the sufi leader Ahmed al Nil to assist at the involving Whirling Dervishes Ceremony (only on Fridays). Return to the hotel, dinner not included and overnight.

Day 3: Breakfast at the hotel and then we begin the journey northward. After about 50 km, we get into a desert area covered with huge round granite boulders; these are the last offshoots of the rocky formations of the 6th Cataract. We leave the asphalt road and we drive for about 30 km on a desert track among many camel thorn acacia trees to visit the two archaeological sites.  The site of Naga 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. Picnic in the area and then we return on the main road and driving North and all of a sudden, we can glance at more than 40 pyramids, located on top of a hill, some of them perfectly preserved, which belong to the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. Arrival at the Meroe Camp with a beautiful view on the pyramids, Accommodation in comfortable and fully furnished tents, dinner and overnight stay  

Day 4: Morning dedicated to the visit of the pyramids. 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 Meroe 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 Meroe Camp

Day 5: After breakfast we leave from Meroe and we cross the Nile with the ponton, the local ferry boat, to enter the Bayuda desert.  These ferries are a hive of colourful activities. We find ourselves sharing space with people, donkeys, camels and goats. The Bayuda Desert  is an area bounded by the loop formed by the Nile 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 only little vegetation survives and dorcas gazelles 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. In the first part of the crossing we drive among sand dunes. After some kilometres on the asphalt road, the adventure continue following the Wadi Abu Dom, driving on a sandy track among many acacia trees and some wells where it is possible to meet nomads. Arrival at Merowe, on the Nile, where we across the bridge to reach the comfortable Nubian Rest-House Dinner and overnight

Day 6: 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 one tomb, which is excavated in the rock under pyramids – partially collapsed – and it is 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 late afternoon, return to Karima, accommodation at the Rest-House, dinner and overnight  

Day 7: Today it is a long day on the road but full of interesting encounters and visits. Early in the morning we will follow the Nile until we reach the archaeological site of Old Dongola. Here there are the rest of a Christian Coptic temple with marble columns as well as several suggestive ruins of churches situated on the banks of the Nile. This area is the central part of the Nubian region. Here the population lives in small villages amongst yellow sand dunes and palm trees they speak a different language from the Arabs and also the Islamic religion is not as “strict” as in other regions. The women don’t cover their faces and readily speak to foreigners. Some houses in the Nubian Villages are painted with pattern of flowers, but most of them are completely white. We eat our picnic (with our food) in one Nubian house, but the tea and coffee will be prepared by the Nubian family. In the evening return to the Nubian Rest House in Karima. Dinner and overnight stay

Day 8: After breakfast, we visit the market in Karima, where we can have a real experience of the life of Sudanese people. We then board a small motorboat for a pleasant cruise along the Nile to enjoy the beautiful sand stretches and cultivated islands along the river. A little further northward there used to be the beautiful granite rocky formations of the 4th Cataract, which prevented the Nile from flowing slowly and formed many rapids that obstructed the navigation. In April 2008 the Dam of Merowee has been completed and the flooding of the artificial lake started. Picnic in the area. After lunch, we visit the archaeological site of Nuri where we can see many pyramids among which there is also the one of the great Taharqa. Little walk and then return to the Nubian Rest House for dinner and overnight stay

Day 9: Today we drive west through the Nubian Desert. We reach the Nile and we cross the Bridge to Dongola city, we continue north on the western side of the Nile on the new asphalt road that crosses part of the Western Desert which in some areas has some nice granite formations. We reach the Temple of Soleb. Here we have our picnic lunch in the house of the guardian of the temple. After lunch we drive a further half a hour north to then cross the Nile on a fisherman boat to reach the Island of Sai an important archaeological area where we can find ancient remains from Kerma civilization, Egyptian and Christian culture. During the navigation to the island we may hope to see Nile crocodiles on the shore of the river. After the visit we return to main land and drive back to the house where we will spend the night.

Day 10: This morning we visit the Temple of Soleb, the most beautiful Egyptian temple of all Sudan, testimony of the New Kingdom in Nubia, with many walls rich in hieroglyphic inscriptions, bas-relief figures and many columns. We then drive south leaving the main road to reach the Nile and following it among some villages before arriving to the ferry. Here we cross the River to arrive to the Eastern bank just north of the rapids of the Third Cataract which used to be the third huge obstacle that the ancients Egyptians had to face when trying to sail on the Nile River.  We walk up the hill to the ancient Ottoman Fort where we can have beautiful views of the cataract. In Sebu, right on the river bank of the Nile it is possible to visit one of the richest sites of rock engraving of all Sudan with hundreds of images from prehistoric to Egyptian times. We continue driving through the Nubian villages and among the huge rocks of the Third Cataract to the village of Tombos. Here there were the ancient granite quarries with the remains of a statue of the King Taharqa, simply left there in the desert about 2800 years ago and some interesting Egyptian stele engraved on the rocks. We spend the night in a local private Nubian house, with simple/basic rooms and sharing facilities, but clean and with a couple of western toilets and shower. Dinner and overnight stay

Day 11: A short drive this morning takes us to Kerma where we visit the majestic “Defuffa” the monument that characterizes Kerma civilization. Very interesting is the Museum created by the Swiss archaeological mission after the recovery of seven statues of the Black Pharaohs in 2003. We have time to visit also the Eastern Defuffa located in the middle of the Necropolis, but to reach we need to cross agricultural fields. In the afternoon we return to Karima  

Day 12: Today we drive south along the tarmac road across the Western Desert. We stop for lunch in a simple “chai house” (a roadhouse where the local truck drivers stop for food and to rest) and in the afternoon we reach Omdurman where we can return to the interesting souk IF required by the group. Then we cross the Nile and check-in at the hotel where day use rooms will be available until 23.30. Dinner NOT included if evening flight, transfer to airport; otherwise overnight hotel and transfer next day.

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