Treasures of Ancient Nubia9 days & 8 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
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Khartoum, Karima & Meroe
This fascinating tour takes in the historic sites of the capital Khartoum before heading into the desert in search of the remote UNESCO-listed sites of Meroe, Jebel Barkal, El Kurru, Naga and Mussawarat. The quality of the archaeological sites rival Egypt's, and give a unique insight into Nubia's lost civilizations and evidence of their influence throughout eastern Africa over thousands of years.
Day 1Arrive Khartoum
On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel in Khartoum.Grand Holiday Villa Hotel (D)
In the afternoon, enjoy a Khartoum city tour and Whirling Dervishes. Begin your tour with a visit to Khalifa's House Museum. Khalifa's House focuses on the period of history in Sudan known as the Mahdiya, spanning 1881 to 1899. Khalifa's House used to be the residence of its native rulers post-independence from the British. Abdallahi Ibn Mohammed was known as the Khalifa (successor) and was the most prominent individual in Sudan until his death in 1899. The rooms in Khalifa's House are filled with artefacts from the Battle of Omdurman including weapons, clothing and the chain mail worn by the most important leaders. There is also a room full of the memorabilia of General Gordon as well as pictures and news clippings featuring historic Khartoum.
Located next door to Khalifa's House is the silver-domed Mahdi's Tomb, which can be viewed from the outside. El Mahdi was Sudan's most famous leader. The tomb was destroyed during the battle of Omdurman but was rebuilt in 1949. Continue to Omdurman market, a busy, colourful, invigorating place with endless alleys and side streets with stalls. Donkeys and rickshaws compete for space with shoppers.
Finish your tour at the tomb of the 19th-century Sufi leader Sheikh Hamed al Nil where, on Friday evenings, the dance of the Whirling Dervishes is performed. Dressed in patchwork garments of green and red with dreadlocks and beads, they dance and chant accompanied by drums and cymbals. After the visit, return to the hotel.
This evening, there will be a Welcome Dinner at Assaha Restaurant.
Day 2To Karima
Today, transfer from Khartoum to Karima. You will be driven from Khartoum to Karima via Old Dongola, a distance of 360 miles and an approximate journey time of 8 hours, including stops. En route stops will be made at 'chai houses', simple motorway restaurants. The Nile will be crossed on one of the new bridges near the town of Ed Debba.Nubian Rest House Karima - 3 Nights (B, L, D)
The ancient city of Old Dongola is located on the east bank of the Nile on a small hill. The people who inhabit this central Nubian area speak a different dialect to the Arabs of the region and practice a more moderate form of Islam. The city was an important trading center and capital of the Christian kingdom of Makuria, as well as the departure point for camel trains to Darfur and Kordofan from the seventh to the 14th centuries. The remains of around a dozen churches have been excavated around the site, with the most impressive surviving building being the two-storey Throne Hall whose walls still retain traces of the floral decorations that adorned them. This area is right in the middle of the Nubian region and some houses in the villages are painted with colorful patterns and flowers. Enthusiastic hospitality abounds, and a visit will be made to one family house for a coffee or tea.
After the visit, continue to Karima.
Day 3Tombos - Kerma
Today, proceed on a full day visit to the 3rd cataract, Tombos and Kerma.Nubian Rest House Karima (B, L, D)
This morning, you will depart north crossing the Nubian Desert towards the 3rd cataract located just north of the village which stopped Egyptian expansion south for a period and today stands protected by the remains of an Ottoman fort. From the cataract, head south to the village of Tombos which was once a New Kingdom Egyptian cemetery and important granite quarry. You will stop to see "the sleeping pharaoh" a statue of King Taharqa abandoned in situ in the remains of the quarry and walk through the village to see the traditionally colorful Nubian doors.
After lunch, continue south along the Nile to the local market town of Kerma which today extends for several miles along the banks of the river. The productive fields surrounding the town bely its importance as the center of power for the first kingdom of Kush. You will visit the "Western Deffufa", the large mud brick building that was once the center of ancient Kerma and one of the oldest man made buildings in sub Saharan Africa over 3,500 years old. The new museum by the site houses an excellent exhibition on the history of the site including the black granite statues of the Nubian dynasty pharaohs discovered in 2003 by the archaeologist Charles Bonnet. The amazing preservation of the sculptures has led them to be described as "masterpieces that rank amongst the greatest statues in art history".
Day 4Jebel Barkal - Napata
This morning, enjoy a full day visit to Jebel Barkal and the necropolis of El Kurru.Nubian Rest House Karima (B, L, D)
This morning, you will depart for the world heritage sites of Jebel Barkal and the ancient city of Napata. The ruins around the site include at least 13 temples and three palaces, the largest of which was dedicated to the 'Pharaohs of the New Reign' and their patron god Amon. Around 1450BC, the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III extended his empire to include the city of Napata and Jebel Barkal, establishing the southern border of his lands here. Beside the temple lie several sculpted granite rams, which bordered a long avenue that led all the way down to a pier on the banks of the Nile.
Return to the Nubian Rest House for lunch.
In the afternoon, you will visit one of the royal necropolises of Napata, located near the village of El Kurru, a series of pyramids where it's possible to visit one of the excavated tombs. Decorated with images of the pharaoh, the gods and Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, the tombs are partially collapsed but retain part of their former grandeur.
Return to Karima after visiting a desert area containing fossilised tree trunks.
Day 5To Meroe
You will be driven from Karima to Meroe via Atbara, a distance of 217 miles and an approximate journey time of 7.5 hours, including stops.Meroe Permanent Tented Camp - 3 Nights (B, L, D)
Leave Karima and cross the Nile into the Bayuda desert itself, characterized by sharp black basalt mountains, typically volcanic and cone shaped, with gravelly plains. Make a short visit to the Pyramids of Nuri. Driving through the desert it is possible to see isolated groups of Bisharin nomads congregating around rare water wells. After a stop for lunch return to the ashfelt road and drive to Atbara.
Enjoy an excursion to the Railway museum. Located at the junction of the Nile and Atbara rivers, the town of Atbara is where the main rail line from Egypt to Khartoum branches out to the Port of Sudan. Known as the railway city, you will stop to visit the railway museum.
After your visit, continue south to Meroe along the comparatively busy main road that links Khartoum to Port Sudan.
Today, enjoy a full day tour of Meroe.Meroe Permanent Tented Camp (B, L, D)
This morning, you will depart for the ruins of the Royal Necropolis of Meroe located 2 miles from the Nile on a sandy ridge, the tombs are the most popular tourist attraction in Sudan. There are more than 100 pyramids in various stages of repair, damaged by the desert and tomb robbers both ancient and modern, decorated with bas-reliefs with their own funerary chapels. There is an optional 10-minute camel ride between the north and south necropolis (payable locally).
Return to camp for lunch.
In the afternoon, visit the ruins of the royal city of Meroe, which at its peak boasted a population of around 25,000. Located along the banks of the Nile, the city was a busy trading port and the center of the Kushite kingdom. Roman and Greek coins as well as trade goods have been found at the site along with a bronze head of Emperor Augustus, looted during the Kushite sacking of Aswan in 24BC. The site has been heavily damaged with many red clay fragments scattered throughout the area.
Day 7Naga - Mussawarat
This morning, depart Meroe and head south past Shendi to visit the colorful market. Then leave the main road and head out into the desert. First you will visit the ruins of Mussawarat which feature the largest temple complex in Kushite Sudan. The Great Enclosure originally dates from the Napatan period but was expanded during the rule of Meroe. Consisting of finely carved colonnades and low walls, the site has many depictions of elephants, while the ramped entrances would have allowed access for animals.Meroe Permanent Tented Camp (B, L, D)
Located half a mile east of the Great Enclosure is the first of two Lion Temples dedicated to Apedemak. Built around 230 BC by King Arnekhamani the temple is unique in that is was reconstructed by Humboldt University Berlin in 1960, commemorated by a plaque bearing the insignia of East and West Germany. Beautifully preserved, the temple's soft sandstone walls were covered and protected by the desert sands for centuries leaving the delicate reliefs amazingly preserved. After your visit continue a short distance to the remains of Naga.
Naga is one of the best-preserved Kushite sites in Sudan and one of the important cultural centers that developed during the Meroitic period. Highlights of the site include the Temple of Amun dating from the first century AD. Partially reconstructed, the soft sandstone walls depict delicate relief carvings, approached via an avenue of rams, similar to the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Egypt. To the west of the temple lies the second Lion Temple and a small structure known as the Kiosk, which features a fusion of Roman, Greek and Egyptian decorations and architecture. The Lion Temple is again dedicated to the Kushite Lion God Apedemak with the temple's decorations and carvings showcasing the increasing influence of local artistic styles as opposed to Egyptian.
After a picnic lunch near the site, return north to Meroe.
Day 8To Khartoum
From Meroe to Khartoum.Grand Holiday Villa Hotel (B, L)
Today you will be driven from Meroe to Khartoum via the 6th cataract, Omdurman and the Nuba Wrestling, in Khartoum itself. This is a total distance of 186 miles and an approximate journey time of 4 hours, excluding stops.
Leave Meroe and drive south towards Khartoum before leaving the main road and driving to Sabaloka Gorge which holds the rapids of the 6th cataract. After a picnic lunch in the area, return to the main road and continue to Omdurman, the second largest city in Sudan, lying on the western banks of the Nile, facing Khartoum.
Enjoy an excursion to the Omdurman souq. There will be an opportunity to visit the colorful souq before continuing to your hotel. The largest in the country, the souq is centred on two main squares with a vast network of alleys and side streets alive with a hustle and bustle not experienced anywhere else in Sudan. Omdurman is said to be the heart of Sudan which is reflected in the various ethnicities and wares on sale.
Finally, drive to northern Khartoum, a journey time of approximately 30 minutes, to see the Nuba wrestling.
Wresting has been a fixture amongst the Nuba tribes for thousands of years. The goal of Nuba wrestling is to bring the opponent to the ground. Nuba wrestling has no pinning and no submissions. Although there are strikes, these are essentially part of the standing grappling and is definitely not boxing. The wrestling is recreational and serious injuries are rare.
Continue to your hotel.
Day 9Depart Khartoum
This morning, enjoy a tour of the National Museum and Nile cruise.(B, L)
Morning visit to the National Museum. This double storey building was established as the National Museum of Sudan in 1971 and contains the most important archaeological collection in the country. The museum has exhibits from different epochs of Sudanese history such as Kingdom of Kush and ancient Nubia, and also ancient Egypt. Among the exhibits displayed in the gardens surrounding the museum are the two Egyptian temples of Buhen Temple and Semna Temple, which were relocated to Khartoum before the flooding caused by the creation of Lake Nasser. The museum is located on the El Neel (Nile) Avenue in Khartoum at the junction of the White Nile and the Blue Nile.
Have lunch at Al Hoshe restaurant, right on the banks of the Nile, near to the fort of Omdurman. Traditional Sudanese food is prepared in an open kitchen and it is possible to sit outside and enjoy the scenic setting.
After lunch take a short, 40-minute cruise to the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers. Known as Al-Mogran, it lies just north of the bridge between Khartoum and Omdurman.
Return to your hotel.
Your room will be held for your use until you leave for the airport.
You will be transferred to the airport in time to check in for your international flight.
Generally, road conditions in southern Africa are reasonably good; however, they vary greatly between the modern cities and the remote areas, where the dusty, gravel roads necessitate 4-wheel-drive travel. When traveling off the beaten track, roads are frequently narrow, bumpy and pot-holed, and have stretches which are not sealed, or which are under reconstruction. In Ethiopia, Madagascar, Namibia and Rwanda particularly, conditions are very dusty and the off-road journeys tend to be quite strenuous. Road conditions change throughout the year, and heavy tropical rains and extreme weather patterns can affect journey times enormously.
If we are custom designing an itinerary for you, it is always a good idea to discuss your particular requirements with your travel consultant, who will endeavor to include as much or as little road travel as you desire. The type of vehicle varies according to the country visited and the number of people within your group. In destinations where conditions require it, off-road driving will be in 4-wheel-drive Land Cruisers or Land Rovers.
Internal Flights: Scheduled flights within Sub-Saharan Africa are typically limited to 33-44 lbs. of luggage per person, depending on the airline or charter company operating the flight. Although you may have a luggage weight limit of 44-88 lbs. on your international flight as well as hand luggage, you will need to limit your baggage as required according to the country and airlines or store baggage at your arrival airport. Some flights also require that luggage be packed in soft-sided bags, which Cox & Kings will provide prior to your travel. Between the camps and lodges, we can book either shared air transfers or private charters. We will automatically book shared air transfers wherever available unless otherwise requested. Please note that shared air transfers may make stops to pick up and drop off passengers at other camps, lodges and airstrips en route. Private charter flights only stop for refueling or for customs and immigration formalities as needed. The flight times for air transfers between camps and lodges are arranged 24-48 hours prior to the flight. Departure times are therefore advised locally. Passengers weighing more than 220 lbs. should advise us in advance, as some air charter companies require that an extra seat be purchased at an additional cost for all shared air transfer flight segments. This is for safety and comfort of all guests on board.
Flight Delays & Insurance: Unfortunately, due to the increase in air traffic, government restrictions and changing weather conditions, flight delays have become more common. Apart from delaying your arrival at your destination, these delays can cause problems with onward connections and/or hotel and vacation arrangements, which may need to be rescheduled. Although the airline will sometimes make alternative arrangements to get you to your next destination at no extra cost, additional costs may be involved after your arrival in the form of additional accommodation costs, transfers and onward tickets. Unfortunately, since most services are paid for in advance, any services missed due to delays are non-refundable. Please also bear in mind that many international flight tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable. Therefore, it is essential that you are insured against such eventualities.
Airport Departure Taxes: Many cities in Africa levy a tax for passengers departing on international flights, and where this is not included in the ticket price it will need to be paid in local currency or the equivalent in U.S. dollars. Other cities within a country may also levy a small charge for departures on domestic flights. Occasionally, taxes may be included in your ticket; we will advise you accordingly. Since there is no standard charge between countries, and taxes are subject to change, it is not possible to list the taxes in this brochure. We list applicable departure taxes in our pre-tour general information, which you should receive when you confirm your booking. We attempt to keep these as current as possible. Please ensure you keep enough local currency or U.S. dollars to cover these taxes.
Traveling by train in southern Africa can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. New luxury train routes are constantly being developed and there are now a variety of excellent routes available. Cox & Kings does not advise travelers to use the local trains, which cannot be confirmed as safe; however, the internationally acclaimed Rovos Rail and Blue Train offer a relaxed and luxurious alternative to road travel.
Accommodation standards vary dramatically throughout Africa; however, hotels used on Cox & Kings journeys can normally be expected to be very comfortable. In more remote destinations, such as parts of Ethiopia, Madagascar and Rwanda, accommodation will be more basic. Cox & Kings uses the best available properties in remote destinations and, although these will be clean and offer en suite rooms, in general they cannot be compared to modern, Western hotels. In some locations, many of the hotels we use are small, privately owned properties retaining much of their original ambience. In most destinations, service and food will be of a high quality, but in some less-developed regions hotel service can be slow and we ask you to show patience in this regard. Please note, typically all rooms reserved on your tour are standard; however, if you wish to upgrade your room, please speak to your tour consultant, who will be able to advise you about the options and the applicable supplements.
Early Starts: When on safari, you will find it is necessary to leave your lodge very early in the morning (around dawn) in order to maximize the opportunities for game viewing, as the wildlife is more active during the cooler morning hours and in the evening.
Check-in & Check-out Times: In some situations, when a flight arrives very early in the morning, it may be that you will be taken for breakfast or sightseeing before being allocated your rooms since check-in time is normally between 12 noon and 2 p.m. and check-out time is normally 11 a.m. to 12 noon. Cox & Kings’ local representatives will ensure that you are able to access your room as early as possible, but early check-ins are not guaranteed.
Game Parks & Remote Areas: Within Africa, we generally use the best accommodation available. However, even luxurious properties are a long way from other civilization and can often only be reached down narrow and makeshift roads. Although accommodation will often be in tents, these can be more luxurious than some lodges and include private facilities. Even when you travel off the beaten track with Cox & Kings, you can be sure that your accommodation in game lodges, smaller hotels and tented camps is on par with the best available in that category. Sometimes the best hotel may be the only hotel, which may be very modest. In these cases we feel that such accommodation is outweighed by the experience of these more remote areas.