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Beneath the Sands of Sudan



  • 09 Nov
  • -
  • 16 Nov 2024
  • |
  • 8 days


per person

Availability: 12 places

    This exciting trip offers an amazing insight into the rarely visited and often misunderstood country of Sudan. Located in the magnificent desert scenery lie some of the most important and visually stunning monuments from the ancient world - including more ancient pyramids than can be found in the whole of Egypt.

    This is the ancient land of Kush, the old kingdom of the Meroitic kings, lost in the heart of the Sahara for centuries to the south of the great cataracts. Here we find the lands of Nubia where the desert plains are strewn with an astounding collection of archaeological sites. From the bustling streets and souks of Khartoum, where the blue and white Niles meet in Sudan’s capital, we’ll follow the mighty Nile river north discovering some of the desert’s best kept secrets.

    However this trip is not just about visiting the UNESCO archaeological sites of Jebel Barkal and Meroe and enjoying the desert wilderness – it also offers the chance to get beneath the skin of the country and meet the Sudanese people, whose hospitality and kindness are long remembered by those who have travelled to this fascinating country.

    Day 1

    DAY 1: Tour Starts In Khartoum

    The tour begins this afternoon in Khartoum, Sudan’s fascinating capital. On arrival we’ll check into our hotel before heading out for a boat cruise on the mighty river Nile. From here we’ll attend a traditional Nuba wrestling event, a popular activity for Sudanese men and quite a spectacle as they kick up the dust in an attempt to come out on top! Tonight we’ll enjoy our first group dinner and take the chance to talk about the exciting trip ahead.

    Day 2

    DAY 2: Khartoum - Mussawarat - Naqa

    Today we begin the journey northward and make for Al Sabalouga (Sabaloka Gorge), a pretty spot by the sixth cataract of the river Nile where we’ll take a short boat ride towards the rapids. After a bit of time to stretch our legs and look around, we’ll continue north along the Nile and turn off the highway for the ‘Great Enclosure’ at Mussawarat, whose numerous depictions of elephants imply that these great animals once played an important role in this region. Beyond the big wadi there is another temple - restored by a German archaeological mission - dedicated to the god Apedemak. We’ll then drive to Naqa where we’ll find a beautiful spot to wild camp and spend our first night in tents under the desert sky.

    Day 3

    DAY 3: Naqa - Shendi - Meroe

    This morning we’ll visit the archaeological site of Naqa, one of two centres that developed during the Meroitic period. Set in typical Saharan surroundings of rock and sand, we’ll find a temple dedicated to Apedemak (1st century AD), a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations. A few metres away there is a small and odd construction with arches and columns, named ‘kiosk’, in which we can see Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles together, as well as another temple dedicated to Amon with many statues of rams, and beautiful gates decorated with bas-reliefs. From here we’ll continue to the royal necropolis of Meroe. Here we’ll see the pyramids of the ancient city for the first time, visible amongst the dunes in the distance. Remote and mysterious, Meroe was the cultural core of a Kushite civilisation that flourished for a thousand years until it suddenly vanished. Today this remarkable site is littered with pyramids and funerary temples, some of them very well preserved, their walls decorated with bas-reliefs showing the life of the kings and the gods. Tonight we will stay in a comfortable fixed camp offering amazing views of the pyramids. Please note that the ‘Royal Baths’ at Meroe may be closed to the public when we visit due to planned restoration work.

    Day 4

    DAY 4: Meroe - Atbara - Atrun Crater

    Today we continue our journey along the Nile as we follow the river downstream and make for the town of Atbara, located on the confluence between the Nile and the Atbara river. Here we will cross the Nile and visit the Railway Museum to learn something of Sudan’s history during colonial times. We’ll then drive away from the river and start our crossing of the Bayuda desert, making for the Atrun Crater, a very special place where nomads gather salt. We spend the night nearby at our desert wild camp.

    Day 5

    DAY 5: Atrun Crater – Bayuda Desert - Nuri - Karima

    Today we continue our crossing of the Bayuda Desert, an area bound by the loop that the Nile forms between the 4th and 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. We’re likely to meet isolated groups of Bisharin nomads here, who live in family groups in small huts made of intertwined branches. These huts are located close to water wells for their herds of camels and donkeys. Meeting the river Nile again we’ll visit the Pyramids of Nuri before continuing to the small town of Karima, set before the imposing base of Jebel Barkal, Nubia’s holy mountain of legend.

    Day 6

    DAY 6: Karima - Old Dongola

    After breakfast we’ll visit Jebel Barkal, a red sandstone monolith that acts like a beacon amongst the vast open landscapes of the Nubian Desert. The mountain lay at the centre of Nubian religious worship for centuries, and the large temple that adorns its foot is filled with dedications to the Pharaohs and their gods, and now listed as a World Heritage Site. We’ll also visit nearby El Kurru, where one of the necropolises of the ancient capital of Napata lies. We’ll visit the excavated tombs here, lying under collapsed pyramids, before crossing the desert once more and heading for Old Dongola.

    Day 7

    DAY 7: Old Dongola - Khartoum

    This morning we’ll explore the archaeological site of Old Dongola where we’ll find ruins of Christian Coptic churches. We’ll then journey through the Western desert, stopping for lunch en route at Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. From here we’ll continue to Omdurman for the rest of the afternoon, where we will get to see the impressive whirling dervishes ceremony. Performed in front of the Hamed an-Nil tomb this frenzied sufi tradition is sure to leave a lasting impression you! Tonight we will head out for dinner before returning to our hotel.

    Day 8

    DAY 8: Tour Ends in Khartoum

    After breakfast we’ll cross the confluence between the Blue and White Nile to reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan. Here we’ll look at the outside of Mahdi’s tomb and then visit Khalifa’s House, containing a small museum. We’ll also visit Omdurman market before having an early lunch. In the afternoon we’ll visit the impressive Archaeological Museum, containing many beautiful objects including two full temples rescued by UNESCO from the Lake Nasser area when it was flooded after construction of the Aswan dam. We’ll then return to our hotel for the chance to freshen up. Those on the suggested group flights will be transferred to Khartoum airport in time for their return flight.