Sudan/Egypt - Nile Journey - Lands of the Black Pharaohs

Itinerary: Nile Journey - Lands of the Black Pharaohs

22 January to 11 February 2020

On this Journey you will:

• See the confluence of the Blue and White Nile
• Explore fabled Khartoum and Omdurman
• Gaze in awe at the royal necropolis of Meroe in the Nubian Desert
• Visit the tombs of El Kurru and the petrified forest in the land of Kush
• Wonder at the splendour of Abu Simbel and witness the sound and light spectacle
• Enjoy a luxury Nile Cruise through the greatest outdoor museum in the world
• Discover the Valley of the Kings
• Be dwarfed by the great temples of Karnak and Luxor
• Tour magnificent pyramids at Dahshour, Giza, Sakkara and beyond
• Be awed by the treasures of Tutankhamen’s tomb and antiquities from the pharaohs
• See the famous Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the war cemeteries at El Alamein

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Nile Journey is a tour for everyone wanting to see Africa on roads less travelled, and explore new horizons rarely encountered. On this adventure, we use 4- and 5-star hotels, desert camps, and a Deluxe 3 night Nile cruise. As we take more tourists to more remote parts of the world, we recognize our obligation to plan and operate our Journeys in a responsible and sustainable fashion. We view this as an environmental, cultural, and social necessity. Above all, we are committed to the well-being of the communities, which are our hosts, and the cultural and natural environments that we are there to experience.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and crafts and tribal people, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies and tribal village customs. The program is subject to change.


Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner).

Street market, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt


Day 1: 22 January 2020, Australia - Dubai

Air fares with Emirates TBA. Currently AUD 1590.00

Day 2: 23 January 2020, Dubai - Khartoum airport - North Sudan

Arrive in Khartoum and transfer to our hotel, the Grand Holiday Villa.

Khartoum, Sudan at night

Grand Holiday Villa Hotel, Khartoum, Sudan

Built in the late 1800’s, the Grand Holiday Villa Hotel exudes an old-world charm of the colonial era. Centrally located in the heart of Khartoum's commercial hub, the hotel overlooks the Blue Nile. With famous visitors of the past including Thomas Cook, Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria, ‘rest assured of 5-star conveniences and modern facilities to ensure a memorable stay in the grand city of Khartoum’.

Day 3: 24 January 2020, Khartoum, B/L

In the morning we start our Khartoum city tour crossing the confluence of the Blue and the White Nile near the Presidential Palace where in 1885 General Gordon was beheaded by the Mahdi’s troops, to reach Omdurman, the old capital of Sudan. We will walk in the Omdurman Market which evokes a Middle Eastern atmosphere with its maze-like streets and huge Souq. In the afternoon we visit the National Museum that, besides many beautiful objects, contains two beautiful temples rescued by UNESCO and moved from the Lake Nasser area before it was flooded by water.

At sunset we move near the tomb of the sufi leader Ahmed al Nil to attend the Dervishes Ceremony. The ‘Whirling dervishes’ are Sufi mystics who endeavoured to produce a personal experience of the divine through dance and music.

Day 4: 25 January 2020, Khartoum - 6th Cataract - Naga - Mussawarat - Meroe Camp, B/L/D

After an early breakfast we drive northward along the new asphalt road and into a desert area covered with huge granite boulders, the last offshoots of the rocky formations of the 6th Cataract by which we will stop. Leaving the asphalt road behind, we make the short drive to the temple complex of Naga, located about 30 km to the east of the Nile and one of the two centres that developed during the Meroitic period. Here, in a typical Saharan environment with rocks and sand, there is the Apedemak temple (1st century A.D.): a wonderful building with bas-relief decorations with the image of the god with the lion head, of the Pharaoh, and of the noblemen and several ritual images of the Apedemak god Mussawarat. After our visit here, we move further north towards Meroe. Suddenly a field of pyramids – many of them perfectly preserved – rises from the desert sands: this is the Royal Necropolis of Meroe.

Four wheel drive through the Sahara, Sudan

The Nubian pyramids of Meroe, Sudan

Day 5: 26 January 2020, Royal Necropolis of Meroe - Royal city - Meroe Camp, B/L/D

Meroe is in the Nubian desert, along the banks of the Nile where an astounding collection of 200 pyramids are embraced by the desert landscape. These are the tombs of the kings and queens of the Meroitic Kingdom which ruled the area for nearly a thousand years. Built some 2300 to 2700 years ago, the Meroe pyramids, immediate cousins of the Egyptian pyramids, are distinctly Nubian in style, with narrow bases and steep angles on the sides. Meroe became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and yet, few tourists visit the site. Those who do share these incomparable treasures with desert nomads who live their lives in the traditional way which has remained unchanged for centuries. We visit the Tarabil school that we support as part of our responsible tourism policy. Coffee break at the local village of Kabushia. In the afternoon we move along the Nile to visit the ruins of the Royal city. Sunset at the Pyramids.

The Meroe Camp, Sudan

The Meroe Camp overlooks the renowned pyramids. Every tent has its own private restroom and shower which is in a separate hut at the back of the tent. There is an indoor restaurant with a large paved area around to be able to eat outside in the pleasant spring evenings. A veranda on the top of the restaurant will allow us to enjoy the sunset over the pyramids or to simply relax.

Day 6: 27 January 2020, Meroe - Nuri Necropolis - Jebel Barkal - Karima, B/L/D

Today we drive further north where we cross the Nile and enter the vast Bayuda Desert. This desert is etched by a loop, formed by the Nile between the 4th and the 6th Cataract, and distinguished by sharp black basalt mountains – most of them volcanic and cone-shaped. They alternate with level pebble stretches and large valleys crossed by dry wadis where sparse vegetation clings to life. We then cross a bridge over the Nile to reach Karima and our hotel, situated in a garden oasis on the right bank of the Nile.

The Nubian Rest House, Sudan

The Nubian Rest House, located at the foot of Jebel Barkal, is a charming boutique hotel with all rooms having private facilities and a pleasant veranda where to sit in the cool starry nights. The Rest House is tastefully decorated, starting from the original Nubian door where the guests enter the property, to the open-air lobby, to the living room where we can rest or read a book. ‘Care for detail is our passion, and it is easy to understand this when you see the Rest House’.

Day 7: 28 January 2020, Karima - Necropolis of El Kurru - Old Dongola - Tombos, B/L/D

A day on the road but full of interesting encounters and visits. Karima is a small and tranquil town close to the base of Jebel Barkal (meaning ‘holy mountain’ in Arabic), and south of the 4th Cataract. This has been the theocratic heart of the Kingdom of Kush for more than a thousand years. We start by visiting the tombs of El Kurru and the petrified forest nearby Though there are dozens of tombs here, two have been excavated in the rock under partially collapsed pyramids and are wonderfully preserved. They are decorated with images of the Pharaoh and gods with multicoloured hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Ancient rock paintings, Sudan

We then will follow the Nile until we reach the archaeological site of Old Dongola. Here there are the remains of a Coptic Christian church with marble columns as well as suggestive ruins of churches situated on the banks of the Nile.

The people live in small villages amongst yellow sand dunes and palm trees and speak a different language from the Arabs. We eat our picnic (with our food) in one Nubian houses, with the tea and coffee prepared by the Nubian family. In the late afternoon we arrive in Tombos.

Sudanese woman serving tea, Sudan

Traditional Sudanese house and Sudanes women in their traditional dresses

Accommodation and dinner at Preset camp in Tombos

Day 8: 29 January 2020, Tombos - Kerma - Wawa, B/L/D

Today we visit 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. We then reach the small village of Wawa where we board a small motor boat to cross the Nile and visit the Temple of Soleb, the most beautiful Egyptian Temple in Sudan.

Ruines of Amun temple, Soleb, Sudan

Sudanese children

Preset camp in Tombos

The pre-set camp is prepared prior to the group arrival. Big igloo tents (2, 40 x 2,40 x 1,80) with camp beds, foam mattresses, sheets and wool covers are set up. One small table and two folding chairs are in every tent. For the meals a big restaurant tent with table and chairs is available. Two showers and two toilets complete the structure. The camp will be located among the beautiful rock formations around Tombos.

Day 9: 30 January 2020, Tombos - Wadi Halfa - Ashkait, D

This morning we depart for the Sudanese/Egyptian border travelling through the central Nubian area and the 3rd Nile Cataract, where we see many villages set amongst yellow sand dunes and palm trees. The houses are painted and decorated with flowers and colourful patterns. By lunchtime we reach the border, where our ‘fixer’ is waiting to assist, cross into Egypt and continue to Abu Simbel.

Third Cataract of Nile near Tombos, Sudan

Houses decorated with flowers and patterns, Sudan

Transfer in modern air-conditioned bus to hotel.

Accommodation: 4 star, Tuya Hotel

In the evening we attend a magnificent Sound and Light Show at the Abu Simbel Temple which transports us to the time of the pharaohs and brings the ancient world to life.

Day 10: 31 January 2020, B/L/D

Buffet breakfast at our hotel and check out. Meet our Egyptologist and visit the two temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel before the tourist convoy from Aswan arrives, giving us the opportunity to enjoy the solitude of this wondrous place. Abu Simbel was built in ancient Nubia by Ramesses II to demonstrate his power and divine nature. The entrance to the Great Temple is dominated by four colossal statues of Rameses – two on each side of the entrance. The alignment of the temple is such that twice a year the sun’s rays reach into the innermost sanctuary to illuminate the seated statues of Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II and Re-Horakhty. One of history’s most breath-taking engineering feats was performed here in 1968, when the complex was relocated in its entirety to an artificial hill high above the Aswan Dam reservoir.

Accommodation: Basma Hotel

Abu Simbel Temple of King Ramses II, Egypt

Day 11: 1 February 2020, B/L/D

Many tours of Egypt simply stay one night in Aswan but there is so much to see that we have included 3 nights. We visit The Tombs of the Nobles near the West Bank of the Nile and are of significant ?importance as they give us the chance to know about the history of Upper ?Egypt during the Old and the Middle Kingdoms. We will discover wall paintings inside the Tombs which are wonderfully alive, ?displaying the daily life activities of the ancient Egyptians in a magnificent masterpiece ?of art.

Wall scene of ancient Egyptian painting, Egypt

Later we will enjoy a visit to one of the Nubian villages near Aswan where we can see the local houses decorated with colourful paintings as well as take a camel ride in the desert. Then we visit the Nubian Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to the artefacts and culture of the “Land of Gold”, as ancient Nubia was known by the Pharaohs. The museum contains many rare artefacts, unique statues, and mummies.

Camel at Meroe pyramids, Meroe, Sudan

Day 12: 2 February 2020, B/L/D

This morning drive to the Kalabsha Temple. This too was moved to this spot from its original location 30 miles to the south after the construction of the dam. Construction of the temple was begun at the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and actually completed under the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The result is an interesting combination of imagery that includes Egyptian and Roman themes with images of Roman emperors and pharaohs worshipping with the Egyptian gods. The temple was dedicated to the Nubian god Mandulis

There is a free afternoon and evening, or you may take the option to sail in the evening to Philae Temple for the incredible spectacle of a Sound and Light Show, which takes you on a fascinating tour through history.

The temple of Philaé, Egypt

Day 13: 3 February 2020, B/L/D

This morning we are transferred to our 5 star Deluxe Nile Cruiser the Amwaj for check in.

Lunch on board the Amwaj then we board our local felucca and continue our in-depth discovery of Aswan and visit the romantic and majestic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilka. The entire temple faced flooding when the High Dam was built, and of such importance, it was moved stone by stone to a new island, specially landscaped to replicate the old.

Visit the Aswan High Dam, Egypt’s contemporary example of building on a monumental scale. Finished at the end of the 1960s, it is the second biggest dam ever built, while Lake Nasser is the largest man-made lake in the world. We also visit the unfinished obelisk which lies in its original position in a granite quarry in Aswan which supplied the ancient Egyptians with most of the hard stone used in pyramids and temples, and still hold a huge unfinished obelisk.

The Nile at Aswan, Egypt

Boats docked along the Nile River at the Temple of Philae, Aswan, Egypt

Tonight our dinner on board will feature a Nubian dance and music show, or maybe even ‘Belly Dancing’.

Luxury cruise ship Amwaj

Cruise sightseeing and sailing times may vary and are subject to change

Day 14: 4 February 2020, B/L/D

This morning the Amwaj will sail in the early morning to the twin temples of Kom Ombo. One temple is dedicated to the Crocodile God Sobek, God of Fertility and Creator of the World. The other side to the Falcon God Horus. Enjoy the amazing riverbank scenes while sailing to Edfu, where we board horse carriages and canter to the best-preserved temple of the ancient world, the Temple of Horus.

Temple of Kom Ombo at sunset, Egypt

Stone wall displaying engravings and hieroglyphs, Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt

Temple of Horus, Edfu (Idfu, Edfou, Behdet), Egypt

In ancient times, Edfu was a flourishing Greek city known as Apollinopolis Magna, after the chief God Horus-Apollo. The origins of the temple date from Ptolemaic times, between 237 and 57 BC. The Temple seen today is the compilation of 180 years of construction, additions, and inscriptions and consists of elements of both Egyptian temples and Greek architecture.

Return to our cruiser for afternoon tea while sailing down the Nile to Luxor. Dinner followed by a “Galabeya” party with a chance for all guests to dress up in traditional Egyptian costumes.

Day 15: 5 February 2020, B/L/D

Disembarking this morning we start to unravel the mysteries of the West Bank of the Nile visiting Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple and the Colossus of Memnon. Then we explore one of the most outstanding archaeological sites in the world, located in a secluded valley and discovered only in the 1900s; the Valley of the Kings.

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, View of the temple in the rock in Egypt

Painting of various Egyptian workers from a tomb, Thebes, Egypt

Here there are approximately 60 excavated tombs, including those of Ramesses the Great and Tutankhamun, with many more yet to be uncovered. Some tombs were robbed of their grave goods thousands of years ago, but we still see the fantastically painted tomb chambers and corridors. Return to lunch on board the Nile Cruise.

This afternoon our private guide will reveal the wonders of the East Bank of Luxor, starting with the strikingly graceful Temple of Luxor dedicated to the god Amun the Temple of Karnak, built over more than a thousand years by generations of Pharaohs. The great “Hypostyle Hall” is an incredible forest of giant pillars, covering an area larger than the whole of Notre Dame Cathedral. The Karnak Temple complex comprises a vast collection of derelict temples, chapels and pylons, which were built more than 2,000 years ago. It is the largest religious complex ever constructed. This enormous collection of statues, columns and avenues, which was an overwhelming ‘place of the gods’ for ancient Egyptians is still an awe-inspiring sight today. dinner on board our cruise with an ‘oriental show’.

Sunset over the Courtyard of Ramesses ll, Luxor Temple (Temple of Amun-Ra), Luxor, Egypt

The Great Hypostyle Hall and the lost Sphinxes, Temples of Karnak (ancient Thebes), Luxor, Egypt

Day 16: 6 February 2020, B/L

Following buffet breakfast on board, we check out and fly to Cairo, the largest city in Africa, with an extraordinary history. On the east side of the city there is evidence of 2,000 years of Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures which still flourish to this day. On the west side lies the ancient Egyptian city of Giza, the renowned capital of the old kingdom and the site of the pyramids – the only one of the ancient Seven Wonders to have survived the ravages of time.

We start the day at the National Museum: a tour of 7,000 years of Egyptian history including the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which includes the world-famous golden treasures from King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Funeral mask of Pharoah Tutankhamun, Egypt

This afternoon, we drive to one of the Old Gates of Cairo; Bab El Fotouh, to start an amazing walk through the ancient Islamic quarter, with its narrow streets, and bustling road-side shops and "wekalas" – trading places, that still actively trade in all sorts of wares. Walk down Al Moez Street until we reach the- -recently renovated Beit El Seheimi, one of the most impressive of the homes of the 17th century Islamic era. Then to the fascinating Khan El-Khalili Bazaar – reputed to be the largest bazaar in the Middle East. Originally founded as a watering stop for caravanserai in the 14th century, the bazaar has now grown to vast proportions. As we wander through the labyrinth of narrow streets we will find workshops and stalls selling all manner of things from woodwork, glassware and leather goods, to perfumes, fabrics and Pharaonic curiosities.

Traditional egyptian bazaar with herbs and spices, Aswan, Egypt

The bright colors of the east

Day 17: 7 February 2020, B/L

As on other inclusions in this Journey we have allowed several days to see some of the less visited but equally impressive aspects of ancient Egypt. Our Egyptologist will escort us first to the Dahshour Pyramids, still unseen by most tourists to Egypt. This southern extension of the necropolis of Sakkara is a field of Royal tombs about 3.5km long, only opened to tourists in 1996. Several pyramids can be found here, including the famed “Bent Pyramid”. Another of the three pyramids here which were built by the Pharaoh Sneferu, father of Cheops (of the Great Pyramid at Giza), is the Red Pyramid. This monument gets its common name from the reddish limestone used to build most of its core, but it is also sometimes referred to as the Shining or Northern Pyramid. It is the fourth highest pyramid ever built in Egypt, with almost 160 layers of stone. Together, these pyramids represent the transition from the step-pyramid of Sakkara to the smooth-sided pyramids of Giza.

World Heritage Step pyramid, Djoser, Egypt

Our Egyptologist will guide us to some tombs belonging to the nobles of the past. They show the beauty and excellence of Ancient Egyptian art on their walls and give an insight in the daily life of Ancient Egypt.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we will enjoy an unforgettable tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza; the only present-day survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They are among the world’s greatest tourist attractions and never lose their ability to inspire and overwhelm visitors. Enter the temple of the mysterious Sphinx, an ancient figure shrouded in legend and mystery. We will be enthralled with the tales told of this fascinating figure.

The pyramids of Giza with the Sphinx in the foreground, Cairo, Egypt

Day 18: 8 February 2020, B/L

Today we take a fascinating tour of Islamic Cairo, including the beautiful and graceful Mohamed Ali Mosque and the ancient Citadel, a spectacular medieval fortress perched on a hill above the city. Originally built by Salah El-Din in 1176 to fortify the city against the Crusaders. The Citadel was modified and enlarged over the centuries by subsequent rulers and today is a complex of three mosques and four museums. Our tour will also include the Sultan Hassan and Refaai Mosques.

View onto Mosques of Sultan Hassan and Al Rifai, Cairo, Egypt

Courtyard of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Citadel of Saladin, Cairo, Egypt

Interior of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, known as  Alabaster Mosque, Saladin Citadel, Cairo, Egypt

Lunch at the famous “Azhar Park” which is a part of Agha Khan’s charity founditions and has a great view over the whole of old Cairo.

Then it’s an exploration of another face of this vast and complex city; Coptic Cairo. Here we will find the remains of the old Fortress of Babylon, built at the time of the Romans in Egypt to protect the country from invading enemies. The walls enclose the Church of St. Sergius, which is built on a crypt considered to be one of the resting places of the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt 2000 years ago. We also see the “Hanging Church” supported by only one column and boasting incredible paintings inside.

On to the Synagogue of Ben Ezra, from the time of the once thriving Jewish community in Egypt under the leadership of Rabbi Ben Ezra. Inside were discovered the so-called “Geniza Documents”, which reveal an unparalleled source of information about life of the Jews in Egypt’s past.

Day 19: 9 February 2020, B/L

Today we take the Desert Road to the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’. Located near the Nile Delta, Alexandria was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, who was only 25 years old at the time. Alexandria is full of legends and intrigue and has a very different history from the rest of Egypt. Time for sightseeing beginning with the 15th century Mamluk fort, Qait Bay, which overlooks the entrance to the Eastern Harbour in Alexandria. It is built on the foundations of the Pharos lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and incorporates both a castle and a mosque within its walls.

The Catacombs are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt, consisting of three tiers of tombs and chambers cut into the rock to a depth of about 35 meters. Constructed in the 2nd century AD, probably as a family crypt, they were later expanded to hold more than 300 individual tombs. We drive on to the only Roman amphitheatre in Egypt, discovered quite recently, when the foundations for a new apartment building were being dug. The terraces, arranged in a semicircle around the arena, are extremely well preserved.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is not only a library, but also an integrated cultural complex, with libraries, museums, exhibition areas, educational centres, and an international conference centre. It is built on the believed site of the old Library of Alexandria, built by Ptolemy I. It was the largest of all antiquity, frequented by scholars from all over the Mediterranean from the 4th Century BC until its eventual destruction by fire seven hundred years later.

Interior of Africa's largest library, Alexandria, Egypt

Accommodation: 5 star Sheraton Al Montazah

Located on the Corniche, a gorgeous waterfront promenade which runs along the eastern harbour, ending at Montazah Plaza. An evening stroll here gives us enchanting views of the bay and the sea.

Day 20: 10 February 2020, B/L/D

We visit the battlefields of Al Alamein and World War II cemeteries and the Military Museum.

Free time at Leisure in our hotel. We have reserved 2 rooms here to store carry on baggage and which can be used to freshen up.

Farewell Dinner: enjoy our dinner in a traditional restaurant overlooking the beach. Transfer to the airport.

Day 21: 11 February 2020, B/L/D

Our Fly Dubai flight departs this morning at 02:55.


• Accommodation in 4 and 5-star hotels, desert camps and luxury Nile Cruise
• Sightseeing in modern air-conditioned private vehicles
• English speaking licensed guides and Egyptologists
• Meals as indicated in the itinerary
• Entrance fees to places mentioned in the Egyptian sector
• Zen Oriental Journeys tour director from Australia (subject to minimum group size of 10)


• Air Fares from your capital city
• Tips (approx. USD 190 per person) to be disbursed by the tour leader
• Entrace fees to places mentioned in the Sudanese sector. Euro 260
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)
• Personal expenditure such as drinks with meals
• Visas
Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government traveladvice.


On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to your conditions of ticketing

On land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-16 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 15-04 Days: 90 % of land cost
• Within 2 days-‘No show’: 100% of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347

Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.
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