fbpx
Top

SUDAN The Three Niles

SUDAN

THE THREE NILES

Nubia & the Nile Valley

Khartoum   |   Gala Abu Hamed   |   Soleb   |   Sebu   |   Kerma   |   Kerima   |   Jebal Barkal   |   Necropolis of El Kurra   |   Meroe   |   Naga   |   Mussawarat   |   Bir Nurayet   |   Mohammed Qol

 

Red Sea Coast

Mohammed Qol   |   Mesherifa Island   |   Mayetib Island   |   Inkeifal Khors   |   Taila Islands   |   Gurna Reef   |   Sha’ab Rumi   |   Sanganeb Lighthouse   |   Port Sudan   |   Khartoum

DURATION

25 Days

EXPEDITION LEADER

David Adams FRGS

DATES

16th November – 12th December 2021

8th February – 4th March 2022

GROUP SIZE

Maximum 12 travellers

FITNESS LEVEL

Active

TOUR STATUS

Available
Sudan - Three Niles

THE STORY

In Search of The Three Niles

Today, but for the life-giving waters of the Nile, Sudan appears a trackless, lifeless desert. However, this land is truly enigmatic. Half buried beneath the sands are the remains of an extraordinary series of civilizations that include three times the number of pyramids in Egypt. Less than 5,000 years ago, the southern edge of the Sahara was some 500 km further north and at that time there were not two but three River Niles. What remains of the ancient Yellow Nile is known today as Wadi Howar, and it’s here where our journey truly begins.

This one-of-a-kind expedition explores the story of the ‘three Niles’ and the extraordinary cultures and history they gave life to. Our journey through time takes us from the fortified mudbrick villages of the Neolithic (around 10,000 BCE), through to the first invasion of the Egyptian Pharaohs to subdue the people of Nubia, then on to the Golden Age of Kush – the Kingdom of the Black Pharaohs – when the Nubian Kings conquered the whole of Pharaonic Egypt. We then explore the last Pharaonic Kingdom, that of Meroe, and finally to subjugation, British invasion and the conquest of Niles.

We visit areas and sites few travellers have seen, unfolding through a variety of dramatic environments including deserts, volcanoes, secret valleys, oasis and charming villages. The encounters with local people are frequent and fantastic due to their heart-felt hospitality. This arid and wild region of extraordinary archaeological interest and beautiful landscapes becomes accessible even to those reluctant to sacrifice their comfort. Travelling in 4×4’s, our explorations of the Western and Eastern Deserts and the Nile Valley includes stays in exclusive lodges, luxury tented camps and fly camps.

We complete this remarkable journey exploring the World Heritage Mukkawar Island Marine National Park on Sudan’s rarely visited Red Sea coast, aboard an exclusively chartered Italian-owned schooner. The reefs, lagoons, islands and turquoise waters of this stunning paradise are extraordinarily rich in biodiversity. We spend our days cruising at leisure, relaxing on remote beaches and snorkelling and diving pristine coral reefs, giving us ample time to reflect on what we have seen on the mainland.

Expedition Highlights

Exploring the ancient course of the Yellow Nile and the 700 BCE Napatean fortress of Ghala Abu Hamed

Marvel at the UNESCO World Heritage listed sites of Meroe, Jebel Barkal, the Napatean Region and the breathtaking Mukkawar Island Marine National Park

Exclusive access to experts throughout the expedition, including local historians

The chance to sleep under the stars in the company of desert nomads

6-day Red Sea cruise aboard a privately chartered 25-metre schooner

ARCADIA EXCLUSIVES

On every Arcadia expedition we give you insider access to the most unforgettable and thought-provoking local experiences, curated exclusively by us for our travellers. Here are some of the Arcadia Exclusives on this trip:

Day 01 – Arrival Khartoum

On arrival at Khartoum airport you are met by an Arcadia Expeditions representative in the baggage hall. You will then be transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.

 

Due to the late evening or very early morning arrival of most international flights into Khartoum, this is an arrival day with no activities scheduled.

 

Corinthia Hotel

Day 02 – Khartoum

Breakfast at the hotel and the morning is free to rest. This afternoon we visit the Blue Nile Sailing Club, where the Melik, the gunboat General Kitchener used to blast his way up the Nile to crush rebellion in Sudan, now lies on the riverbank as a stark reminder of colonial conquest. We pass by the Saint Matthew Cathedral and continue on to the sites of the British invasion and occupation, including the site where General Gordon was killed while defending the British Residency.

 

We then drive to north Khartoum and join the locals to watch the enthralling spectacle of Nubian wrestling in a small stadium. Originating from the Kordofan region of Sudan, a troubled area which was in war with the north for the last 25 years, this wrestling tournament is now a symbol of peacetime and friendship.

 

Tonight, we gather for a sumptuous welcome dinner at the hotel.

 

Corinthia Hotel | Meals: B,D

Day 03 – Khartoum

This morning we explore the colourful Omdurman Souk, the market largest in Sudan. We then visit the bustling fish market and stop in at a local restaurant for a seafood feast.

 

Arcadia Exclusive

After lunch we walk to the National Museum for an introduction to the fascinating history of Sudan and are taken on a private tour of the Museum by the Director, Dr Hatim Annour. We will be taken into the vaults of the Museum to see artefacts not on show to the general public. Dr Hatim will then join us for dinner for further discussions.

 

Tonight, we visit one of Khartoum’s best restaurants for dinner.

 

Corinthia Hotel | Meals: B,L,D

Day 04 – Khartoum

This morning we take a boat ride to see the confluence of the Blue and White Nile and witness the colours of each river moving in parallel before mixing together to form the Nile as it starts its course to Egypt.

 

We visit the Souk Ashabi, also known as the Friday market. After lunch at a local restaurant, we then cross the Nile to the west bank where we visit the impressive tomb of Muhammad Ahmad. Still a respected figure in Sudan, Ahmad was given the title of Mahdi by his followers, who believed he was the messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith. Defeating both the Ottoman-Egyptian and British armies in battle, Ahmad created a vast Islamic state extending from the Red Sea to Central Africa.

 

In the late afternoon we drive to Ahamed el-Nil mausoleum where we witness a mesmerising display by Sufi whirling dervishes. Accompanied by rhythmic cymbals and drums, the dervishes chant, pray and clap, building up in a frenzy to a trance-like state as part of a sacred ritual called dhikr.

 

Arcadia Exclusive

We are joined for dinner by a local historian, who will share their insightful knowledge on the time of the Mahdi, the British invasion and the impact of colonialism on Sudan.

 

Corinthia Hotel | Meals: B,L,D

Day 05 – Khartoum - Western Desert

After breakfast at the hotel we climb aboard our 4×4’s (3 guests max per vehicle) to begin the journey northward through the Western Desert. We travel for 200 km on asphalt road through a desert that is table-flat in all directions. In the village of Tam Tam, we stop in at a chai house, a simple motorway restaurant where local truck drivers stop for a quick meal and some rest. Late in the afternoon we leave the road and find a quiet place to camp under the incredible desert night sky.

 

Overnight in wild camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 06 – Wadi el Milk - Western Desert – Ghala Abu Hamed

We continue our expedition towards Wadi El Milk, where we hope to meet Bisharin nomads camped around the regions few water wells. We then enter Wadi Howar, one of the most remarkable natural features of the south-eastern Sahara. It is the remnant of the ancient Yellow Nile. When the Sahara underwent desertification, the wadi first became a chain of freshwater lakes and marshes, as shown by Ptolemy’s world map, finally becoming extinct around 2,000 years ago. Abundant prehistoric sites certify Wadi Howar as a once ecologically favoured area of settlement and a communication route between the inner regions of Africa and the Nile Valley.

 

This afternoon, we reach a mysterious fortress in the middle of the desert – Gala Abu Hamed. Discovered by a German archaeological expedition less than ten years ago, it is dated to the Napatean time (700-400 BCE). The ruins of the fortress are mainly huge boundary walls of about 100 metres in height, now partially covered by sand and was probably used as a trade post for the caravans coming from Central Africa to the Nile. From here, we reach a small beautiful oasis rich in palm trees among the dunes where we will set our camp.

 

Overnight in wild camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 07 – Western Desert – Soleb Temple - Tombos

Today we complete the desert crossing, reaching the Nile at the city of Dongola, where we continue North via the ruins of Sesebi to the majestic Temple of Soleb. Built by Amenhotep III to honour his wife Queen Tiye (mother of Akhenaten) as a manifestation of the Eye of Ra, it’s a remarkable place visited not only by Amenhotep III, but Akhenaten ‘The Heretic King’ and his son Tutankhamen. The temple’s name changes reflect this extraordinary tumultuous period. Akhenaten replaced the cult of Amun with his singular solar deity Aten – the first single God – before his son Tutankhamun changes it back to Amun and Akhenaten is obliterated from the historic record.

 

We then drive to the Nile, cross on a ferry and arrive at the pre-set camp in Tombos.

 

Our Experiential Preset Camp is an exclusive camp with large Igloo tents provided with camp beds together with foam mattresses. Meals are served in a large restaurant tent located among the beautiful granite boulders and desert in Tombos, where guests enjoy a delicious buffet style breakfast and dinner.

 

Overnight in pre-set camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 08 – Tombos – The 3rd Cataract – Sebu – Kerma - Karima

After breakfast we visit the ancient quarries of Tombos, before driving north to reach the Third Cataract, a picturesque set of rapids and the largest natural obstacle that prevented the Egyptian Pharaohs from colonising Kerma until the New Kingdom.

 

We stop to see the petroglyphs in Wadi Sebu, before continuing on to visit the site of Kerma, the Deffufa and the Museum. Kerma was the regions capital during the period known as ‘Kerma Culture’ (3rd – 2nd millennium BCE). It contains the remains of an old town marked by unique temples of mud brick preserved to the height of 19 metres, known locally as the ‘Western Deffufa’. There is also a vast cemetery with funerary chapel constructed of mud brick. We drive on to Karima, where we stay for the next three nights in a charming hotel built in the typical Nubian style.

 

Arcadia Exclusive

This afternoon we explore a working dig site with an archaeologist. We have special insider access at the fascinating temples of Dogi Gel (‘Red Hill’), located just several hundred metres from Kerma. The round and oval shaped structures, dating from 1,500 to 2,000 BCE, represent a type of architecture that, until their discovery in 2016, was previously unknown in Central Africa or the Nile Valley.

 

Nubian Rest House | Meals: B,L,D

Day 09 – Karima - Jebel Barkal & Necropolis of El Kurru

Rising out of the sands of the Nubian Desert,  the great monolith of Jebel Barkal can be seen from over ten kilometres away. At the foot of this wonderful and isolated red sandstone mountain, considered holy since the ancient times, lies a large temple complex dedicated to the Pharaohs of the New Reign and to their patron, Amon. Amon’s ancient ‘Pure Mountain’, the Olympus of the Nubians, was the religious Nubian heart for more than 1,000 years. Besides the ruins of the temple, there are still several sculptured granite rams that were supposed to border a long avenue that probably led to the royal pier on the Nile. In the mountain wall itself, there is a large room decorated in bas-relief.

 

The Royal necropolis of Napata, the Nubian capital (from 800 to 400 BCE), has a large number of pyramids located in three different locations within a few kilometres of the holy mountain. After a fine lunch at the Nubian Rest House we shall explore them all. At El Kurru (one of the necropolises), we explore a tomb decorated with images of the Pharaoh, the gods and multicolour hieroglyphic inscriptions. Partially collapsed, it was excavated into the rock under one of the pyramids. We then move on to another site that has fossil trunks of trees, telling of a once radically different climate. In the evening we return to Karima.

 

Nubian Rest House | Meals: B,L,D

Day 10 – Karima – Old Dongola – Karima

Today we head out to explore a completely different chapter of Sudan’s history, the site of Old Dongola which was once the capital of the Christian Kingdom of Makouria (7th – 14th century). The site contains many churches, palaces, houses and mosques. The walls of a number of buildings are decorated with very fine frescoes.

 

Arcadia Exclusive

On returning to Karima, we have organised a relaxing boat trip to explore this beautiful stretch of the Nile and see the dramatic sunset from the river.

 

Nubian Rest House | Meals: B,L,D

Day 11 – Karima - Meroe

This morning we drive to the pyramids of Nuri and visit the necropolis, where American archaeologists have recently opened new tombs. We continue crossing the desert on the old Abu Dom track with a brief stop to the ruins of Der Ghazali Monastery.

 

We then follow the tar road across the Bayuda Desert, stopping along the way to visit nomads, before leaving the main road to drive across the desert to see the water wells where the nomads collect water. We cross the Nile on an old ferry boat before arriving at our tented camp.

 

Meroe Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 12 – Meroe

The archaeological sites of Meroe, a semi-desert landscape between the Nile and Atbara rivers, was the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, a major power from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE. It was the royal city of the Kushite Kings and includes the nearby religious sites of Naqa and Musawwarat es Sufra. It was from here its rulers controlled all of Egypt for close to a century. The site features pyramids, temples and domestic buildings as well as major installations connected to water management. Their vast empire extended from the Mediterranean to the heart of Africa and this incredible site testifies to the exchange between the art, architectures, religions and languages of both Upper and Lower Niles.

 

The Royal Necropolis of Meroe is located three kilometres from the Nile on a range of low dunes. Entering the site takes your breath away, each pyramid has its own funerary chapel with the walls fully decorated with bas-reliefs that show the King’s life and offers to the gods. After a morning exploring the pyramids, we tear ourselves away to have lunch at Meroe Camp before we move along the Nile to visit the ruins of the Royal City. Much of the city has still to be excavated and is covered by red clay and other archaeological fragments.

 

We conclude this magical day with the unforgettable experience of having sundowners amongst the pyramids before returning to camp.

 

Meroe Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 13 – Meroe – Naga – Mussawarat - Meroe

After a hearty breakfast at the camp, we begin the journey southward. We leave the asphalt road and drive 30 km on a desert track to two intriguing archaeological sites.

 

At Naga we find a temple dedicated to Apedemak (1st century CE), a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations depicting the god with a lion’s head, the Pharaoh, noblemen and several ritual images. A few metres away is a small, odd construction with arches and columns, named the ‘Kiosk’, in which we can see Egyptian, Roman and Greek styles all at the same time in one building. If you look carefully, you will find graffiti carved into the block work by soldiers from the time of Napoleons invasion.

 

Not far away we reach another temple dedicated to Amon with many statues of rams and beautiful gates decorated with bas-reliefs. We then reach Mussawarat, a settlement that occupied a beautiful valley crowned by a row of hills. Here lie the ruins of a complex known as the ‘Great Enclosure’, made up of a series of walls which surround a temple built in the 1st century.

 

Arcadia Exclusive

In the afternoon we immerse ourselves into the local cuisine with a Sudanese cooking experience, joining the chef of an excellent restaurant in preparing delicious local delicacies and then eating our creations together.

 

Meroe Camp | Meals: B,L,D

Days 14-17 – Meroe - Nubia Mountains – Bir Nurayet

We leave the ruins of Meroe and drive northwards to the town of Atbara. Lying at the confluence of the Nile and its most northern tributary, Atbara (Bahr-el-Aswad, or Black River) was a strategic location for military operations. In the Battle of Atbara, fought on 8 April 1898 near Nakheila, Kitchener’s Anglo-Egyptian Army defeated the Mahdist forces commanded by Amir Mahmud Ahmad. Kitchener’s strengthened position led to a decisive victory at the Battle of Omdurman 5 months later, giving the British control over the Sudan.

 

We then turn eastwards towards the Red Sea Hills to begin our next adventure – the crossing of the Eastern Nubian Desert to the Red Sea. As we drive between the wadis, we will likely meet gold prospectors – nomadic Beja people of the Bisharin and Hadendowa tribes.

 

We camp at and explore Jebel Magardi, an unusual shaped mountain near Bir (Well) Nurayet, where only a few years ago a Polish archaeological mission discovered a large number of rock carvings illustrating that people have inhabited this region for thousands of years. The mountain was believed to be an ancient centre for magical ceremonies associated with a fertility cult.

 

Overnight in wild camp | Meals: B,L,D

Day 18 – Nubian Desert – Red Sea Coast

After breaking our last camp, we reach the Red Sea near the small village of Mohammed Qol, which takes its name from a Saudi Arabian fisherman who moved here to start trading in this region.

 

We board our privately chartered 25-meter schooner, sip on a welcome drink and let the sea adventure begin.

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Day 19 – Cruise: Mohammed Qol – Mesherifa Island – Mayetib Island

The Red Sea’s warm waters and comparative isolation have resulted in a spectacular array of marine life. Soft and stony corals thrive to produce a wondrous reef, providing home to innumerable crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms and fish. Along the Sudanese coast, water temperatures average 27-28°C. This is hot enough to reduce the planktonic and algal blooms that are so common further north. As a result, the sea is generally clear with visibility of up to 30m depth.

 

Mesharifa Island is only 4 km off the coast, and this will be our first opportunity to swim in these crystal-clear waters. We reach Mayetib Island, called the ‘island of snakes’ where an endemic species of non-poisonous snake lives. Here we have a delightful sandy beach from which we can snorkel along the reef.

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Day 20 – Cruise: Inkeifal Khors

Where the mountains meet the Red Sea, ‘Khors’ is an Arabic word that means ‘natural fjords’ and there are a number of them we will see in the area.

 

Inkeifal Khors is a spectacular place with two lagoons, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. We hop ashore for a walk, taking in sumptuous views over the desert.

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Day 21 – Cruise: Taila Islands

After cruising out of Shambaya, we reach the Taila Islands. These are made up of three small islands with white-pinkish sandy beaches. The first two are connected by a sand isthmus at low tide.

 

We walk amongst the acacia trees of the islands, look for nesting Osprey and hope to find coquina clams, which will be a great addition to our pasta dish prepared by the cook on board!

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Days 22 -23 – Cruise: Gurna Reef –Sha’ab Rumi – Sanganeb Lighthouse

In the morning we sail to the wonderful Gurna Reef, whose coral reaches the surface of the water and is populated by abundant colourful fish.

 

We then sail on to Sha’ab Rumi, where the reef is considered one of the best in the world. A lagoon behind the reef contains the remnants of Jacques Cousteau’s Conshelf 2, where the famous oceanographer created an environment in which men could live and work on the bottom of the sea.

 

We dive and snorkel this beautiful natural wonder, hoping to site turtles, Manta rays and the schools of Barracudas and dolphins that frequent the area.

 

We cruise on to the picture-perfect Sanganeb Lighthouse, where from its top we can enjoy breathtaking views of the area. The surrounding Sanganeb reef was declared a Natural World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2016.

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Day 24 – Cruise: Umbria shipwreck – Suakin – Port Sudan

On the way to Port Sudan we will stop at the Wingate Reef where the Italian ship Umbria sank in 1940 and lies on its side at a maximum depth of 36m. We are able to snorkel the wreck at its shallowest point.

 

Tonight, we have a special farewell dinner onboard the boat.

 

MY Elegante | Meals: B,L,D

Day 25 – Port Sudan – Khartoum (Departure)

After breakfast, we disembark from the boat and  drive to the ancient port of Suakin. Likely Ptolemy’s Port of Good Hope, Limen Evangelis, in its glory days Suakin was known as the ‘Red Sea Pearl’ and bore witness to some of the great moments in history from the time of Rome to the invasions of the British Empire. Today it is a ghost town and currently under restoration.

 

This afternoon we transfer to Port Sudan Airport to board our flight to Khartoum airport where you will meet your connecting international flight or embark on further explorations.

 

Meals: B

YOUR EXPERT EXPEDITION LEADER

David Adams FRGS

An historian, filmmaker and photojournalist, David is well known for his investigative work. Over the past 20 years he has researched, written and produced numerous documentary films, most notably Journeys to the Ends of the Earth, a 13 part documentary series made for the Discovery network and Alexander’s Lost World, tracing his extraordinary 1,500 mile journey through Afghanistan and Central Asia.

In addition to his adventures in documentary filmmaking, David is a widely published photojournalist with articles appearing in over fifty countries and has also acted as a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Georgia. David is a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

Residing in his native Sydney, David is Co-Founder of Arcadia Expeditions. His passion for archaeology, anthropology and history continues to take him to exotic locations worldwide including Iran, Siberia, the Pacific Rim, Northern and Central Africa in search of indigenous peoples and their disappearing cultures.

ACCOMMODATION HIGHLIGHTS

DATES & PRICES

$14,900

PER PERSON, TWIN SHARE
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT $1,390 per person

16th November – 12th December 2021
25 DAYS
8th February – 4th March 2022
25 DAYS

INCLUSIONS

  • Domestic flights as per itinerary
  • Meals as per itinerary (24 breakfasts, 23 lunches, 23 dinners) including welcome and farewell dinners
  • Private airport transfers (arrival and departure)
  • All diving and snorkelling equipment on the Red Sea cruise
  • Accommodation as stated on a twin-share basis
  • Porterage at airports and hotels
  • All land transport by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Services of an Arcadia Expedition Leader
  • English-speaking local guide during the land component
  • Sightseeing as specified including entrance fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
  • Reusable responsible travel water bottle with daily drinking water provided
  • Gratuities/tipping for local guides, drivers, hotel staff and restaurants for included meals
  • All taxes

EXCLUSIONS

  • Return international flights
  • Passport and visa charges
  • Items of a purely personal nature (i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc)
  • Excess luggage
  • Lunch and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in itinerary
  • Travel insurance

MORE ADVENTURES