Sudan - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs

Sudan - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 8 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 short trip 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.

Day 1 - Khartoum

Arrive in Khartoum on an early morning flight (usually between 0200 and 0300) and transfer to the hotel. A room at the hotel is booked for you so you are able to check-in and go straight to your room. Breakfast at the hotel and later in the morning we start the Khartoum city tour. We first 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. At sunset we travel to the tomb of the sufi leader Ahmed al Nil to witness a Whirling Dervishes Ceremony (only on Fridays). Overnight Acropole Hotel or similar (BL)


Strategically situated at the confluence of the Blue and White branches of the Nile, Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was first established as a military outpost of Egypt in 1821, and then grew rapidly in prosperity due to the slave trade, becoming as important in the trade as Zanzibar. In 1834 it became the capital of the Sudan, with many European expeditions into the ‘interior’ using it as a base. Khartoum achieved notoriety in Victorian Britain in the 1880s. A Mahdist rebellion to the west was gathering pace, and General Gordon was despatched to Khartoum to assist the beleaguered Egyptian forces. Gordon refused to evacuate the capital, and a long siege led to it eventually being overrun by rebels, with Gordon’s head being severed and presented to the Mahdi. Later, Kitchener reclaimed Khartoum for Britain and Egypt and began the rebuilding of the city, using the shape of the British flag to design its streets, believing that this would make it easier to defend. Today Khartoum is a quiet, unremarkable city. It has peaceful, tree-lined streets, and in some ways still bears the unmistakable mark of an outpost of the British Empire.

Day 2 - Naqa and Musawwarat Temples – Meroe

This morning we begin the journey northward through the desert past huge granite boulders which formed the 6th Cataract. We continue then to the impressive archaeological sites of Naqa and Musawwarat. After exploring these sites we journey to Meroe and our tented camp overlooking the Royal Necropolis of Meroe where we spend the night. (BLD)

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.

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.

Day 3 - 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 also visit the Tarabil School near the pyramids and the local village of Kabushia. This afternoon we 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. The archaeological sites of the Meroitic Empire since 2011 have been listed as a World Heritage UNESCO site.

Day 4 – Meroe – Bayuda Desert - Karima

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 some Bisharin nomads who live in familiar groups in small huts made of intertwined branches close to rare water wells. We continue following the Wadi Abu Dom and eventually to our accommodation for this evening. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (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.

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 5 - Karima, Jebel Barkal and the Necropolis of El Kurru

Visit the ancient monuments around Jebel Barkal, including its pyramids and temples, before heading towards the royal cemetery at El Kurru. We then head into the desert to an area that contains numerous fossils, before heading back to Karima. There will also be an opportunity for you to walk to the top of Jebel Barkal for outstanding views over to the Nile and beyond. Overnight at the rest house. (BLD)

Jebel Barkal and 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 two tombs, which are 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.

Day 6 - Old Dongola – Nubian Villages

Today is a long day but full of interesting encounters and visits. We 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 and have tea with a family. Return to Karima for the night. Overnight at the 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 7 – 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 8 – Karima – Khartoum

We head back south today towards Khartoum, reaching Omdurman in the late afternoon where we can visit the interesting souk again for some last minute shopping. If time allows we may also have the chance to see some traditional Nuba wrestling. A room will be available at a hotel until 11pm for those on late night flights. Transfer to the airport (BL)

Optional Extension

Day 8 – Karima- Temple of Soleb – Island of Sai

Today you drive west through the Nubian Desert. On reaching the Nile you cross the Bridge to Dongola city, and continue north on the western side of the Nile on the new asphalt road which has some granite formations along the way. You reach the Temple of Soleb where you will have your picnic lunch in the house of the Guardian of the temple. After lunch drive a further half an hour north to cross the Nile on a fishing boat to reach the Island of Sai, an important archaeological area with ancient remains from the Kerma civilization, Egyptian and Christian cultures. During the crossing to the island you may see Nile crocodiles on the shore of the river. After the visit return to the mainland and drive back to a Nubia local house where we spend the next 2 nights with simple basic rooms and shared facilities, but clean with western toilets and shower. Single rooms cannot be guaranteed at the Nubia House. (BLD)

Nubian houses in Soleb

We stay in a typical Nubian house with some rooms with 4 beds each, verandas with other beds, 2 long drop toilets, 1 naturally sun heated water shower. There is a generator working for a couple of hours, so people can charge the batteries from their cameras. A kitchen and a room for the driver is also available. The food will be prepared by our cook. The sleeping bags with sheets and mosquito nets are provided by our organisation. The second night is in Tombos, where we sleep in a new extension area of the house of the guardian of the Tombos site:We spend the night in a local private Nubian house in Tombos, with simple/basic rooms and sharing facilities, but clean and with a couple of western toilets and shower. You must bring your own towels for the stay in the Nubian Houses.

Day 9 - Ferry crossing - 3rd Cataract - Sebu- Tombos

This morning you visit the Temple of Soleb, the most beautiful Egyptian temple in Sudan, testimony to the New Kingdom in Nubia, with many walls rich in hieroglyphic inscriptions, bas-relief figures and many columns. Then drive south leaving the main road to reach the Nile and following it through villages before arriving at the ferry. Here you cross the River to arrive on the Eastern bank just north of the rapids of the Third Cataract which used to be a major obstacle that the ancient Egyptians had to face when trying to sail the Nile River. You can walk up the hill to the ancient Ottoman Fort with beautiful views of the cataract. In Sebu, right on the river bank of the Nile it is possible to visit one of the richest sites of rock engraving in Sudan, with hundreds of images from prehistoric to Egyptian times. Continue driving through the Nubian villages and among the huge rocks of the Third Cataract to the village of Tombos. Here there were ancient granite quarries with the remains of a statue of the King Taharqa, simply left in the desert about 2800 years ago and some interesting Egyptian stele engraved on the rocks. Overnight Nubian private house (BLD)  

Day 10 – Tombos – Kerma - Karima

A short drive this morning takes you to Kerma to visit the majestic “Defuffa” the monument that characterizes Kerma civilization. Of great interest is the Museum created by the Swiss archaeological mission after the recovery of seven statues of the Black Pharaohs in 2003. There is time to visit the Eastern Defuffa located in the middle of the Necropolis, crossing fields to reach it. In the afternoon return to Karima and the comfort of the Nubian Guest House (BLD)

Day 11 – Khartoum

Return to Khartoum, stopping for lunch in a simple chai house. This afternoon we reach Omdurman and we can visit the souk again if you wish for some last minute shopping. Transfer to the hotel where day use rooms are available for a shower, then transfer to the airport for your onward flight which in Sudan will often be late evening or in the early hours of the next morning depending on the airline. (BL)

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 260 payable locally in USD cash
International flights
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)
Video camera fees

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