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Treasures of Ancient Nubia

9 days & 8 nights, 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 1
    Arrive Khartoum

    On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel in Khartoum.

    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.

    Grand Holiday Villa Hotel (D)
  • Day 2
    To 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.

    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.

    Nubian Rest House Karima - 3 Nights (B, L, D)
  • Day 3
    Tombos - Kerma

    Today, proceed on a full day visit to the 3rd cataract, Tombos and Kerma.

    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".

    Nubian Rest House Karima (B, L, D)
  • Day 4
    Jebel Barkal - Napata

    This morning, enjoy a full day visit to Jebel Barkal and the necropolis of El Kurru.

    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.

    Nubian Rest House Karima (B, L, D)
  • Day 5
    To 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.

    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.

    Meroe Permanent Tented Camp - 3 Nights (B, L, D)
  • Day 6

    Today, enjoy a full day tour of Meroe.

    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.

    Meroe Permanent Tented Camp (B, L, D)
  • Day 7
    Naga - 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.

    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.

    Meroe Permanent Tented Camp (B, L, D)
  • Day 8
    To Khartoum

    From Meroe to Khartoum.

    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.

    Grand Holiday Villa Hotel (B, L)
  • Day 9
    Depart Khartoum

    This morning, enjoy a tour of the National Museum and Nile cruise.
    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.

    (B, L)

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Treasures of Ancient Nubia