Sudan - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs

Sudan - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 10 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Our Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs tour offers you the chance to visit the amazing sites of northern Sudan in comfort, staying in comfortable hotels and tented camps, and so is ideal for those who would prefer not to camp. On this tour we visit some the key sites of the incredible ancient civilisations of Sudan, spending time at the ancient monuments and pyramids around Jebel Barkal, visiting the stunning Royal Necropolis at Meroe and the impressive sites of Naqa and Musawwarat. We cross foreboding desert landscapes, and hope to meet families of local nomads en route, as well as stopping at Nubian villages to meet friendly inhabitants. This is an ideal trip for those wishing to visit some of Sudan’s key highlights in a short space of time.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • See the most prominent archaeological wonders of Sudan
  • Superb views of the Nile from the top of Jebel Barkal
  • The incredible pyramids of Meroe
  • Meet the locals in charming Nubian villages
  • Experience the isolation of the Bayuda desert
  • Ceremony of the whirling dervishes in Khartoum

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotels/Nubian rest house accommodation and permanent tented camp which has proper beds and private bathroom facilities
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 16
Start Point: Khartoum
End Point: Khartoum
Transport: 4WD
Countries: Sudan

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. On this tour, your guide may be local or European but they will be based in the region. We may also you specialist guides local to their specific region. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Please note that the itinerary will run in reverse for certain departures although always starting and ending in Khartoum on the stated dates.

Day 1 – Arrive Khartoum
Arrive in Khartoum and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight Hotel Acropole.

**Depending on the time of your flight arrival you may arrive very early on the morning of Day 2 and the room will be available for you at the hotel**

Day 2 – Khartoum – Karima
This morning we drove north through the desert to Karima and the comfort of the Nubian Guest House. Journey across the Western Desert around and cross Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. We will make a short stop at a chai house, a very spartan motorway services in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. We then reach Merowee and once on the other side of the river Nile we arrive in the small town of Karima, located right at the foot of Jebel Barkal holy mountain. (BLD)

Nubian Rest House – Karima
Situated at the foot of Jebel Barkal, the Nubian Rest House is a charming small property built in the typical Nubian style. It is surrounded by a private enclosure, with lovely gardens and a leisure area. Each of the 22 rooms are characterized by a peculiar Nubian door with its own private bathroom and a pleasant veranda. All the buildings at the property are built with local materials synonymous with the Nubian area.

Day 3 – Jebel Barkal and the Necropolis of El Kurru
A landmark in the Nubian Desert, Jebel Barkal (‘Jebel’ means mountain in Arabic), can be seen from dozens of kilometres away. At the foot of this wonderful, isolated red sandstone mountain, considered holy since the ancient times, there is a large temple, dedicated to the Pharaohs of the New Reign and to their patron Amun. Besides the ruins of the temple there are several sculptured granite rams that supposedly formed a border along an avenue that led to a pier on the Nile. We visit the Royal Necropolis of the ancient city of Napata, the Nubian capital (from 800 to 400 BC) before the Meroitic period. It has a large number of pyramids in three different locations: a few hundred metres north of Jebel Barkal, at El Kurru, south from the mountain and at Nuri, which is located on the other bank of the Nile. At the village of El Kurru lies one of the necropolises of the ancient capital Napata. Here we visit a tomb, excavated in the rock under pyramids, partially collapsed and are fully decorated with images of the Pharaoh, of the gods and with multicolour hieroglyphic inscriptions. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Day 4 – Nile Cruise - Necropolis of Nuri
After breakfast we visit the market in Karima to experience the sights and sounds of local Sudanese life. We then board a boat for a pleasant cruise along the Nile to enjoy the beautiful sand stretches and cultivated islands. Later we visit the archaeological site of Nuri to witness many more pyramids including the one of the great Taharqa. We will walk in this area before returning to Karima. Overnight at the Nubian Rest House (BLD)

Day 5 – Old Dongola – Nubian Villages
Follow the Nile until we reach the ancient Christian site of Old Dongola. Here we can see a Coptic Christian temple with marble columns as well as several churches on the banks of the Nile. We will also pass by a village belonging to the Nubian people, where we hope to stop and meet the inhabitants and see their colourful painted houses. Return to Karima for the night. Overnight at the Nubian Rest House (BLD)

Nubian people
Ancient Nubia, stretching through northern Sudan and southern Egypt, was the home of Africa's earliest black civilisation with a history which can be traced back to 2000 BC, through monuments, artefacts and written records from Egypt and Rome. In antiquity, Nubia was a land of great natural wealth, of gold mines, ebony, ivory and incense which was always prized by her neighbours. Nubia’s location frequently brought it into conflict with its neighbour to the north, Egypt, and throughout ancient history there were periods when Nubian rulers held sway over Egypt, and vice versa. The traditional homeland of the Nubians was hugely disrupted with Nasser’s building of the Aswan Dam in southern Egypt, a project that flooded Nubian villages and monuments and caused the local population to have to relocate. Nubians today have their own language and are divided into three main groups – the Mahas, the Danaqla and the Sikurta, each speaking slightly different dialects.

Day 6 – Karima – Bayuda Desert – Meroe
Cross the Nile by local ferry, giving us a great opportunity to meet local people and to experience some of their kindness and hospitality. After the river crossing we enter the Bayuda desert, an area bounded by the loop formed by the Nile between the 4th and the 6th Cataracts. We may be lucky to meet nomads who live in familiar groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to rare water wells. We continue to our accommodation for this evening at Meroe and our tented camp overlooking the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. (BLD)

Bayuda Desert
The Bayuda Desert is characterised by sharp black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic and typically cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys with dry wadis passing through areas where only a little vegetation can be seen, together with some gazelles. It is very likely we will meet an isolated camel and donkey caravan of the Bishariyyin nomads. They live in family groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to the rare water wells, in areas where surviving seems almost impossible.

Meroe Tented Camp
The Meroe tented camp is located in Bagarwyia around 230km North of Khartoum. The site overlooks the spectacular pyramids of Meroe. Accommodation consists of 22 twin bedded tents which are tastefully furnished. Each tent has its own private bathroom with shower and toilet. Each tent is equipped with a veranda and chairs to relax in front of the astonishing view of 40 pyramids making up the Royal Necropolis only 2 km’s away. Electricity is working until around 11pm. The restaurant serves excellent food and has a nice atmospheric terrace. Note that Meroe Camp is currently in the process of building new accommodation. No disturbances will be experienced by guests as work will only happen when guests are out of camp. There is no interruption of the views of the pyramids.

Day 7– The Necropolis and the Royal City of Meroe
The Royal Necropolis of Meroe stands on a hill, with more than 40 pyramids, some of them in perfectly preserved condition. We spend today visiting the Necropolis and the Royal City of Meroe, giving us a fascinating insight into a culture and civilisation long since passed. The Royal Necropolis of Meroe is located about 3 kms from the Nile on some hills covered with yellow sand dunes. We then move along the Nile to visit the ruins of the Royal City. Overnight at the tented camp. (BLD)

Meroe was the capital of the kingdom of Kush, becoming more important when the Royal Cemetery was moved there from its previous position at Napata. Its significance and power within the region was based on the skill of its metalworkers, iron being a product that was in great demand in the ancient world, and it was also an important trading power with links to both India and China. During its prominence, from around the 8th century BC to the 3rd century AD, the Kushite or Meroitic Empire held sway over large swathes of the surrounding area, including as far away as Lake Chad. Its rich civilisation has left numerous pyramids, very different from their better known cousins in Egypt and with far fewer tourists, making them an absolute pleasure to explore. Each one has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs depicting numerous scenes. 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.

Day 8 – The Temples of Naga and Mussawarat – Dervish Ceremony - Khartoum
We have breakfast at camp and then set off. After about one hour driving 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 of Naga and Mussawarat. We have a picnic in the area and then we return to the main road. We travel through a desert area covered with huge round granite boulders; these are the last offshoots of the rocky formations of the 6th Cataract. We continue our trip until Omdurman where at sunset time we will attend the Dervish ceremony then head to Khartoum. Overnight Acropole Hotel or similar (BL)

Naqa and Musawwarat
The site of Naqa is located about 30 km to the east of the Nile and is one of best preserved relics of the kingdom of Kush. In Naqa, a typical Saharan environment with rocks and sand, there is the Apedemak Temple (1st century AD): a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations and containing images of the Kushite lion-headed god Apedemak, of the Pharaoh and of noblemen. Nearby is a small construction with arches and columns, known as the ‘Kiosk’, in which we can clearly see the Egyptian, Roman and the Greek styles. Not far away is another temple dedicated to Amun with many statues of rams and a beautiful temple entrance decorated with bas-reliefs. In Musawwarat, a short distance from Naqa, a settlement was located in a valley crowned by hills. Today the ruins of a very large temple, which once played an important role, are visible. A large number of elephants can be seen on the walls, which indicate that this animal used to have an important role in this area. Beyond the large wadi there is another temple - recently restored by a German archaeological mission, dedicated to the Apedemak God.

Day 9 – Khartoum
Breakfast at the hotel and later in the morning we start the Khartoum city tour. We visit the Archaeological Museum which 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 and reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan, where we see the Mahdi’s Tomb from outside and visit the Souk (if open as there was recently a fire at the souk). At sunset, we move to Khartoum North to see the traditional Nuba Wrestling.
Overnight Acropole Hotel or similar (BL)

**Depending on the time of your departure flight, you may wish to depart today (Day 9) in the late evening or very early on the next morning**

Day 10 – Departure
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.


Contact us for details of our pre/post tour extension to Soleb. Depending on the departure this will either be before or after the main tour.

Example Pre-tour Extension – Soleb from Karima

Day 1 - Khartoum airport to Khartoum
Meet and greet at the airport and transfer to your hotel.
Overnight at the Acropole Hotel or similar (B)

Day 2 - Khartoum to Karima
This morning we drove north through the desert to Karima and the comfort of the Nubian Guest House. Journey across the Western Desert around and cross Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. We will make a short stop at a chai house, a very spartan motorway services in the desert where local truck drivers usually stop for a quick meal and some rest. We then reach Merowee and once on the other side of the river Nile we arrive in the small town of Karima, located right at the foot of Jebel Barkal holy mountain. Overnight at the Nubian Rest House (BLD)

Day 3 - Karima - Dongola - Soleb Temple - Tombos
Today we drive west through the Nubian Desert. When we reach the Nile and we cross the Dongola Bridge and continue north to the amazing Temple of Soleb, the most beautiful Egyptian temple in all of Sudan with many walls rich in hieroglyphic inscriptions, bas-relief figures and many columns. We enjoy our lunch in a local Nubian house nearby before we drive off road to reach the Nile. A short drive south will take us to Tombos and the ancient granite quarries with the remains of a statue of the King Taharqa.
Overnight at preset camp in Tombos (BLD)

Day 4 - Tombos - Wadi Sebu - Sai Island - Tombos
Today we drive north on the eastern side of the Nile and visit 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, we visit one of the richest sites of rock engraving in all ofl Sudan with hundreds of images from prehistoric to Egyptian times. We drive further north to reach the Island of Sai, reached via a local ferry boat. This is an important archaeological area where we can find ancient remains from Kerma civilization, Egyptian and Christian culture. The return Nile crossing will be on a fisherman boat and we hope to see Nile crocodiles on the shore of the river.
Overnight at preset camp in Tombos (BLD)

Day 5 - Tombos - Kerma - Western Defuffa - Karima
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. In the early afternoon we return to Karima.
Overnight at the Nubian Rest House (BLD)

Day 6 is then Day 3 of the main tour.

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Visa support documents (letter of invitation)

Compulsory Archaeological fees, permits, passport registration – currently USD 290 or EUR 260 payable locally in cash
International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)
Video camera fees

Other tours in Sudan

Sudan Nile Valley and Western Desert »

Sudan - The Nubian Desert and the Red Sea »