Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs

Sudan has hosted some of history’s most important kingdoms and civilisations. On this tour we journey back to the time of the Kush, uncovering some of Sudan’s most significant historical sites. We travel through incredible desert landscapes, see the changing views of the Nile, and meet the friendly inhabitants of this vast and enchanting country.

Starting in the bustling capital of Khartoum, we visit the National Museum and witness a dervish ceremony, before heading north along the Nile, until we reach the holy mountain of Jebel Barkal and its archaeological treasures, dating back to the time of the Pharoahs. The next part of the journey explores traditional Nubian life as we visit local markets in Karima, and we then head to the pyramids of Nuri before travelling to Old Dongola, home to the remains of an ancient Christian civilisation.

We then cross into the Bayuda desert, home to Bisharin nomads and dramatic basalt mountains, continuing to visit the Meroe Pyramids – one of Africa’s most dramatic sights – before returning to Khartoum to see the traditional wrestling matches of the Nuba people.

For those keen to see more, a short extension takes us to the well preserved Temple of Soleb with its exquisite decoration and hieroglyphics, the ancient quarries of Tombos, and the ‘Defuffa’, a building dating back to the Kerma civilisation.

Sudan has a rich and surprising heritage to rival that of its better-known neighbour, Egypt, yet the tiny number of visitors makes a trip here very special.  This is an ideal introduction to a much misunderstood country.

Meroe pyramids - Sudan itinerary - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs


  • Explore the Royal Necropolis at Meroe
  • Amazing desert scenery
  • Traditional Nubian villages
  • The temples of Naga and Mussawarat
  • Visit the ancient pyramids at Nuri

Day 1 - Khartoum

Arrive in Khartoum and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Grand Holiday Villa Hotel or similar.

Khartoum has an enviable location, situated at the point where the waters of the Blue and White Niles meet. The city is divided into three including the oldest part, Omdurman – the old Mahdist capital, and the semi-industrial city of Khartoum on the north bank. Khartoum has an interesting and diverse ethnic make-up, consisting of Arab, Dinka, Shilluk, Nubian, Beja and Fur tribes and nationalities, to name a few. The city’s past is equally as interesting, with its history of ivory, slave and more recently oil trading which has contributed to the wealth and growth of the capital, as well as its huge population surge.

Day 2 - Karima

Today we journey north through the Western Desert, crossing Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. Eventually we reach the small town of Karima, at the foot of Jebel Barkal, where we will stay tonight. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Day 3 - Jebel Barkal – El Kurru

Spend today exploring the holy mountain of Jebel Barkal and its ruins, including the Temple of Amun. After lunch we head south to the village of El Kurru to explore its tombs with their well-preserved wall paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Return to Karima for the night. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Jebel Barkal
The sandstone mountain of Jebel Barkal has long been considered a significant religious site, with both the Egyptians and Kushites believing it to be the home of the god Amun. The temple dedicated to the god lies at the foot of the mountain, and stretching out towards the Nile, is the largest Kushite building ever built. The larger temples around Jebel Barkal are still regarded as sacred places by local people, and it is said that the mountain emits an aura that is prominent at dawn or dusk.

Day 4 - Nuri

Experience local Sudanese life at Karima’s market before taking a scenic boat ride on the Nile. After lunch, we visit the archaeological site of Nuri and explore its ancient pyramids. Return to Karima for the evening. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Day 5 - Old Dongola

Visit the archaeological site of Old Dongola, home to old Christian Coptic churches and Nubian villages with traditional painted houses. We are welcomed into the home of a traditional Nubian family for lunch, before returning to Karima for the evening. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Old Dongola
This now deserted former capital of Makuria started as a fortress before becoming a prosperous city, flourishing from its trade along the Nile and benefiting from the rich and fertile land surrounding it. Until 1323 when the Muslim Mamluks of Egypt took to the throne, Old Dongola was a Christian kingdom with numerous fresco decorated churches.
Around a dozen churches have been excavated here, but due to them being converted under Muslim rule, and later plundered for building materials, there is little that remains of this  medieval city. Two of the most well-preserved buildings here are the Throne Hall – a two storey brick building overlooking the Nile, thought to have served a royal purpose, and the Church of the Granite Columns with its cruciform design, dating back to the 7th century.

Day 6 - Bayuda Desert – Meroe

Today we cross the Nile and enter the Bayuda desert – an area characterised by sharp, cone-shaped black basalt mountains, most of them volcanic. We visit the Ghazali Monastery and may be lucky enough to encounter isolated Bisharin nomads who live in huts alongside their caravans and herds of camels. We then cross the Nile again by ferry and continue to Meroe where we will stay tonight. Overnight Meroe Camp. (BLD)

Day 7 - Meroe

Spend today discovering the Meroe pyramids and the remains of the Royal City along the Nile. Overnight Meroe Camp. (BLD)

This former Kushite capital on the banks of the Nile was once a residence of the king, and occupied from around the 25th Dynasty in Egypt. Until the fall of the Kushite rule in 4th century AD, kings and queens were buried here and the city prospered from trade along the Nile. There are around 100 pyramids throughout the Northern and Southern Cemeteries, each with its own funerary chapel and walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs depicting the king’s life and offerings to the gods. Although there is a clear resemblance between the pyramids found here and in Egypt, those at Meroe are much smaller and were constructed unusually, by digging tomb chambers directly into the rock below and then building the pyramid above. This allowed them to be constructed much more quickly and with less manpower.

The royal cemeteries were moved to Meroe from Napata around the 3rd century BC, which allowed Kush the freedom to develop their own culture. This involved replacing Egyptian hieroglyphics with a Meroitic script, which is still something of a mystery to archaeologists.

The exact reason for the collapse of the Kushite Kingdom is uncertain, but there are several theories associated with its decline, such as environmental catastrophe, the fall of the Roman Empire which impacted on Meroe’s economy and the rise of the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia. Archaeological evidence also suggests that Meroe had a turbulent history, and numerous temples dedicated to Apedemak, the ‘warrior god’, have been uncovered here.

Day 8 - Naqa – Mussawarat - Khartoum

Head south to Mussawarat where we explore the ruins of its 1st century temple. From here we continue to Naqa where we discover beautifully decorated temples dedicated to the gods Apedemak and Amon. We then head back to Khartoum and in the late afternoon visit the tomb of the sufi leader, Ahmed el Nil, to witness the ceremony of whirling dervishes. Overnight Ewa Hotel or similar. (BL)

Day 9 - Khartoum

Spend the day exploring Khartoum and neighbouring Omdurman, the former capital of Sudan. Visits include the Mahdi’s Tomb, Khalifa’s House, the Omdurman Market and National Museum. Later transfer to the airport for departure. (BL)

Please note that you must pay an additional €300 in archaeological fees and photography permits in cash when you arrive Sudan, to our local representative.

Also note that we sell this trip in conjunction with our local partner and therefore you should expect people of different nationalities and a maximum group size of 16 on this tour.

Some departure dates run in the reverse direction, visiting Meroe first instead of Karima – please contact us for details.

In 2024 this tour will be a day shorter (with the exception of the 26 January and 19 April departures) – please contact us for details.

Optional pre-tour Soleb Extension

Day 1 - Khartoum

Arrive in Khartoum and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Grand Holiday Villa Hotel or similar.

Day 2 - Western Desert - Karima

Today we journey north through the Western Desert, crossing Wadi Muqaddam with its many acacia trees. Eventually we reach the small town of Karima, at the foot of Jebel Barkal, where we will stay tonight. Overnight Nubian Rest House. (BLD)

Day 3 - Dongola – Soleb – Tombos

Drive west through the Nubian Desert to the remarkably well preserved and beautiful Temple of Soleb. We have lunch in a local Nubian house before continuing to Tombos. Overnight fixed camp or local homestay. (BLD)4

Day 4 - Tombos – Wadi Sebu – Third Cataract – Sai

Start the day exploring the site of Tombos, where we see ancient granite quarries, Egyptian stele and remains dating back 2800 years. We then continue to the Third Cataract of the Nile and prehistoric rock art in Sebu. Later we take a boat to the island of Sai – an important archaeological area with ancient remains from the Kerma and Egyptian civilisations. Return to camp by local fishing boat. Overnight fixed camp or local homestay. (BLD)

Day 5 - Kerma - Karima

Drive to Kerma to visit the impressive Defuffa (mud-brick) monument and statues of the pharaohs, before returning to Karima for the night. Overnight Nubian Rest house. (BLD)

Please note that Day 5 of the extension is Day 2 of the main tour.


Sudan itinerary - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs
Nomad - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nubian woman - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere. Please note that Meroe Camp is a tented camp with beds – not camping.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour ( can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


You will need a visa to visit Sudan and you should apply before you travel via the Sudanese Embassy in your home country. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Sudan, and two consecutive blank pages.
You cannot enter Sudan if you have Israeli stamps or proof of entry in your passport.

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.


The currency in Sudan is the Sudanese Pound or ‘SDG’ and it is not possible to withdraw cash against any credit or debit cards at banks or from ATMs. Foreign debit and credit cards can’t be used anywhere in Sudan, not even at international hotels. Make sure you bring enough hard currency with you – this should be in US dollars dated 2006 onwards as older money will not be exchanged. Pounds sterling are rarely exchanged. Only change money through banks or official bureau de exchange.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to the areas we visit on this trip.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Sudan. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Updated July 2023

Sudan itinerary - Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs
Nomad - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
Nubian woman - Sudan itinerary - Nile Valley and Western Desert
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