The ancient Egyptians knew Sudan as the Land of Kush – a source of ivory, gold, spices and incense. It was power and the promise of great hidden treasures that made Sudan – the largest country in Africa – the object of invasion and exploration for much of its long and tumultuous history. This land that stretches from the Sahara to the Red Sea, is a diverse and fascinating mélange. Yet today much of it remains unexplored – one of the last frontiers of travel. Somerset Tours & Travel have now put together a fascinating tour highlighting the best of ancient Sudan and invite you to join us as we discover the prolific monuments erected by the Black Pharaohs of the Nubian Kingdom.
Our tour departs South Africa on 31 January 2018 and flies on Emirates Airlines via Dubai to Khartoum. Here we will base ourselves in the 4* Hotel Grand Holiday Villa or for additional supplement at the 5* Corinthia Hotel for two nights while we explore the history of the area in the museums of Khartoum and Omdurman.
From Khartoum we move northwards through the Western Desert to Karima and Meroe. The most important time in the history of North Sudan begins with the first Kingdom of Kush in Kerma, and continues around 1500 BC when the Egyptian pharaohs conquered Nubia leaving behind temples, monuments and permeating the local culture. Then the Kushite kingdom, with its capital in Napata (near modern Karima) was born.This was the golden age of Nubia. In 725 BC the Nubian king Piankhi conquered Egypt. In these times the concept of pyramids as funery monuments spread in Nubia while it had been completely abandoned in Egypt for centuries. As time passed by, Napata lost it’s importance and Meroe, located south-east, became the new capital of the kingdom. Meroe was the most important metropolis in Sudan for many centuries until its fall in 4th century AD. The sites of the Napatean and Meroitic period are UNESCO World Heritage.
There are more than 250 pyramids along the Nile in Sudan, far outnumbering their Egyptian cousins. Standing alone in the Sudanese desert for more than 2000 years, they are built close to the Nile, an important source of water and a trade route to Egypt, linking many of the ancient sites found in present day Sudan.
The Kushite rulers had seen themselves as the true inheritors of Egyptian religion and culture long before they built the pyramids at Meroe, and even invaded their northern neighbour in the 8th century BC to establish an empire stretching as far as Libya and Palestine. Although Egypt later came under Roman control, it continued to influence the cultural life of the Kushite Kingdom. The pyramids of Meroe are all that remain of a once-magnificent Kushite city, and bear witness to an empire once powerful enough to hold its own against Rome.
Inside the temples are fascinating wall carvings depicting various scenes of life in the Kushite kingdom, including Queens presiding over their subjects and people worshipping Egyptian gods. In one temple, a carving reveals evidence that the royal buried inside the pyramid was mummified, covered with jewellery and laid to rest in a wooden case.
The pyramids at Meroe are Sudan’s most-preserved pyramids; they have the highest number of tombs and are the most extensively excavated by archaeologists. As we drive along the Nile, we’ll spot many other groups of pyramids or ancient ruins on the horizon.
Driving up the Nile towards the city of Dongola is the renowned archaeological site at Kerma, home to the Kingdom of Kerma, which existed more than 5 000 years ago. Although they were influenced by the Egyptians, the people of Kerma were a civilization in their own right, ruling over ancient Nubia before the Kushites arrived and built the pyramids. At Kerma today, the oldest mud brick building in Africa, a huge tomb surrounded by smaller burial sites, can still be seen. In 2003 more than 40 large granite statues of pharaohs, thought to have been rulers of the Kushite empire, were found scattered through the desert near Kerma.
Unlike Egypt’s pyramids of Giza, most of Meroe’s pyramids are slightly smaller with steeper sides, narrower bases and adjoining offering temples. Their distinctively darker colour is due to the higher iron content in the rocks.
Visits to the excellently-preserved temples of Naqa and Musawwarat, where beautiful carvings show the mix of Egyptian, African and Roman influences that fed into Kushite art, are also included.
Excavation is ongoing, in the hope that more clues to the mysterious Kushite Kingdom will be unearthed.
We’ll base ourselves at a private rest house in Karima for 4 nights and a private tented camp in Meroe, both managed by an Italian manager with the help of well-trained Sudanese staff, so that we can explore these incredible archaeological sites.
Liz Cotton will be accompanying the group from South Africa and a professional local guide will be escorting the group throughout the region.
Sudan is the largest, yet one of the least visited, countries in Africa. Although various ongoing conflicts mean much of this vast nation remains off limits, the northeast is one of the safest places in the world.
Our tour offers an amazing insight into the rarely visited and often misunderstood country of North Sudan. Blessed with not only some stunning stretches of desert, beneath the sands of Sudan lie some of the most important and visually stunning monuments from the ancient world, including more ancient pyramids than can be found in the whole of Egypt.
This trip is not just about visitng the UNESCO archaeological sites and enjoying the desert wilderness. It is also a chance to go beneath the skin of the country and meet the Sudanese people, whose hospitality and kindness will long be remembered by anybody travelling to Sudan.
This is a wonderful and unique trip which will be sure to appeal to those for whom the desert holds a certain magic.
Visiting Sudan is an eye-opening and rewarding experience and we hope you will be able to join us on this extraordinary tour.
If you have any queries, or would like to secure your reservation on this tour, please do not hesitate to contact me on +27 (0)21 786-2598 or cell +27 (0)83 357 4855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.