The barren sands of Sudan have secrets to tell in voices worn weary by the passage of time. Known by the Greeks as Aithiopia (Ethiopia) and by the Egyptians as Kush, this desert region was a flourishing center of trade and culture for centuries, facilitated by the coursing of the mighty Nile River. Begin in Khartoum at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles, and explore the National Museum and its unparalleled collection of Kushite treasures. Continue on to Karima and the monolith of Jebel El Bakal, the source of kingship for ancient royalty. Experience the reverence given to departed kings while viewing the pyramids at Nepata and Meroe, and feel yourself stepping back in time with every footprint left in the Sudanese sand.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
The Northern Sudan regions have a desert climate, with high thermal range between day and night. For our trip the best periods are the winter months, from October to the end of April, with a dry and sunny climate. The rest of the time, it is very hot in the desert and visiting the pyramids and archaeological sites can be oppressive. February can be windy. The temperature ranges from 75 to 100 during the day, but can drop to 40 degrees in the evenings, particularly during December through February. From February to end of April (and occasionally even earlier) there may be lots of “nimitti” which are small, harmless, but extremely annoying flies in the north (Tombos, Soleb area) – these flies are the ones that pollinate the palms. We will provide fly nets to wear over the face and we suggest you bring long sleeves with you to cover exposed skin.
On the extension, Ethiopia is blessed with mild temperatures year-round. The highlands average below 70 degrees and the lowlands can soar past 90 degrees. The heaviest rains are traditionally between June and October. Right after the rains, the highlands take on a beautiful green sheen with a plethora of wildflowers.
Fly to Khartoum and transfer to your hotel. This evening, you will be treated to dinner with your fellow travelers as a welcome to Sudan. Next day, head out for a tour of Khartoum. Begin at the National Museum of Sudan, a wonderful repository of relics of the Kush Kingdom as well as two complete temples built by Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Thutmose III. Follow the course of the Blue Nile to the Presidential Palace and view the Cathedral of Saint Mathew along the way. Cross the confluence of the Blue and White Niles on your way to Omdurman, which was made the capital during the Mahdist War (1881-99), where you will have lunch. Afterward, visit Khalifa’s Wax Museum and the local souk (market). At sunset, you will be privileged to a ceremony performed by Whirling Dervishes near the tomb of Ahmed Al Nil. CORINTHIA HOTEL KHARTOUM. (B,L,D)
Arise early and head into the expanse of the Western Desert, experiencing the wonderment of 360° vistas along the way. Take in an afternoon respite before you visit the archeological site of Old Dongola, the capital of the medieval Christian kingdom of Makuria on the east bank of the Nile River. Founded in the 5th century CE, the site features ruins of Coptic churches and a crypt believed to be the burial place of Archbishop Georgios, one of the most prominent religious leaders of his era, who died in 1113. Reach Karima late afternoon on the bank of the Nile and near Jebel Barkal, an isolated monolith believed to be the source of kingship for Nubian and Egyptian rulers. NUBIAN REST-HOUSE. (B,L,D)
Venture out to the foot of Jebal Barkal, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Often referred to as “the Mount Olympus of the Nubian kings”, it was also important to the Egyptian Pharaohs of the 19th Dynasty, who dedicated a temple to their patron god, Ammon, on this site. After lunch, travel to the village of El Kurru and the ancient Nubian capital of Napata. The site features a cemetery for Nubian royalty, a pyramid field where 21 kings, along with 52 queens and princesses, were interred. The oldest is that of King Taharqua (690- 664 BCE), which reaches a height of 164 feet. NUBIAN REST-HOUSE. (B,L,D)
Today drive across the Nubian Desert following a good tar road to the site of Tombos to see the statue of King Taharqua lying in the middle of the old granite quarry. See some old Egyptian Stelaes found on the granite boulders of the third cataract. In Kerma, not far from Tombos, see the remains of the old capital of the Kingdom of Kush and the mysterious Defuffa (in Arabic mud brick building). Visit the nearby museum exhibiting seven amazing statues recently found in the area by Swiss archaeologist Charles Bonner. Return to Karima in the evening. NUBIAN REST-HOUSE. (B,L,D)
Cross the Nile this morning and enter the Bayuda Desert. This region of volcanic cone - shaped mountains of black basalt, occupies a pocket formed by a great bend in the Nile River. Drive past the simple huts of the nomadic Bisharin, pastoralists who tend camels and domesticated livestock. Take a pontin (ferry) and mingle with locals and their assemblage of goats, camels, and donkeys as you float across the world’s longest river. This evening will be spent at a permanent tented camp that overlooks the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. MEROE CAMP. (B,L,D)
Enter the Royal Necropolis of Meroe, its summit adorned with the stone vestiges of Kushite kings. This necropolis sits atop yellow dune capped hills which are punctuated by the piercing apexes of 40 incredibly well preserved pyramids. Many of these funerary edifices feature chapels, the walls of which are decorated with reliefs depicting the great deeds of its occupant. From the necropolis transition to the Royal City, centrally located in the ancient city of Meroe, which became the capital after it was moved from Napata, marking the start of the Meroitic Period (300 BCE - 400 CE). This site is an archeological treasure trove as it marks a point in time where Nubians began to depart from Egyptian influences. As a result, many of the inscriptions are in the Nubian, Meroitic script and not hieroglyphics. Although mentioned in the writings of Herodotus in 430 BCE, Meroe is still an enigma. Meroitic script has yet to be deciphered and much of the site has yet to be excavated. Return to your tented camp in the evening. MEROE CAMP. (B,L,D)
The morning is spent at market in the town of Shendi. From there you drive on to the first of two archeological sites you will visit today, Naga. This site is a collection of ruins dating from the Meroitic Period, and like Meroe, its temples are a showcase of Kushite culture. There is a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Ammon and another to the Nubian lion-headed god Apedemak. At a small building called the kiosk, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman stylistic flourishes are present due to Meroe’s status as a center of trade in antiquity. Drive back to Khartoum in the evening and enjoy a farewell dinner with fellow intrepid travelers where you can recount the highlights of your special journey. Next morning is at leisure for your last-minute shopping and exploring Khartoum on your own. Later, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight back to the U.S. (B,L,D; B,Meals Aloft)
Explore more of ancient Aithiopia with a visit to modern Ethiopia. Begin in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia and home to the African continent’s largest open air market. Travel to Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile, and observe its thunderous cascades at Blue Nile Falls. The history of Christianity in Ethiopia is on full display in the venerable island monasteries of Lake Tana and the hewn rock cruciform churches at Lalibela and Axum. Taste coffee in the land of its origin, take in the scents of berbere and niter kibbeh, all the while being serenaded by the voices of history.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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