Passage of the Nile
This great caravan of antiquity starts appropriately in Ethiopia, the ‘cradle of civilization’ and heads inexorably north, tracing the Nile’s path to the Mediterranean Sea. From Addis Ababa to Alexandria – this is a remarkable land journey from the source to the mouth of the Nile!
Almost a transmigration, the journey starts in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, then moves to the Blue Nile Gorge before reaching the vast Lake Tana at Bahir Dar. From this lake, the Blue Nile emerges like an angry snake, carrying great volumes of silt that have fertilised the Nile Valley since eternity. The journey then crosses the lake to Ethiopia’s Camelot city of Gondar, from where we head to one of the great undiscovered treasure troves left on earth, North Sudan. Here we see the meeting of the Blue and While Niles at Khartoum, before heading north east to the forgotten Kush kingdoms of the Black Pharaohs, the oldest civilisation in sub-Saharan Africa. Within these landscapes, looming like a mirage in the red sands, are the spellbinding Nubian Pyramids of Meroe. With far more pyramids – every bit as captivating as those of their northern neighbour but without the tourist hoardes – these monoliths are a truly amazing sight. Moving north, we follow the meandering ribbons of the Nile cataracts through the changing faces of the great Nubian Desert. Our entrance into Karima is announced by the red sandstone mountain of Jebel Barkal, a holy peak believed to be the mound of all creation by the ancients. From here we begin a journey north by road that crosses the border to Abu Simbel in Egypt, where we see this great wonder of the world without the tourist convoys from Aswan which return the same day. The proximity of Abu Simbel to Sudan, together with our two-night stay opposite the temple, allows us this unique experience and also gives the opportunity to see a sound and light show in the evening. From Abu Simbel we continue to the Aswan High Dam where we embark on a magnificent three-night Nile Cruise to Luxor through possibly the world’s greatest open-air museum: the scale and grandeur of the monuments defies all superlatives! Travelling by train to Cairo we then visit the breathtaking Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx, before making the short journey to Alexandria where the Nile drains into the Mediterranean Sea. This is an adventure that unveils hidden kingdoms, and a vast tract of humanity that has depended on these mythical waters since the beginning of time. This is Passage of the Nile, where the kindness and gentleness of the people – both Muslim and Christian – who inhabit the banks of the Nile, will provide the most enduring and searing memories!
Tour Fitness Level: Active
- Visit to Dr Catherine Hamlin’s Hospital by the River in Addis Ababa
- See the source of the Blue Nile at Lake Tana
- Stay in Ethiopia’s Camelot city of Gondar
- See the true whirling Dervishes in Khartoum
- View the confluence of the Blue and White Nile in Khartoum
- See the sun set over the pyramids of Meroe
- Three-night stay in the startling oasis hotel in Karima
- Climb the holy mountain of Jebal Barkal
- Visit the Royal Necropolis at El Kurru
- Explore the amazing site of Abu Simbel
- See the superb Sound and Light show at Abu Simbel
- Visit Aswan High Dam
- Enjoy a three-night luxury cruise on the Nile
- Visit the Valley of the Kings
- Explore the remarkable Temple of Karnak
- Visit the amazing site of the Pyramids of Giza
- See the sound and light show at the Sphinx
- Visit the greatest treasure house in the world, the Cairo Museum
- See the spot where the Nile drains into the Mediterranean Sea
- Travel from the source to the mouth of the Nile by land transport only: coach/train/boat
- All flights between Australia and Ethiopia/Egypt and Australia (inc domestic from your preferred capital city)
- All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
- All visas and courier fees
- All accommodation (twin-share)
- All transfers
- All ground transportation
- Nile cruise
- All meals as specified
- Travel Directors’ tour leader throughout
- Expert local guides
- All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
- All tips and gratuities
Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 per person paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.
06/02/2020 Australia – Dubai
Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Dubai.
07/02/2020 Dubai – Addis Ababa (D)
On arrival in Dubai we connect with the flight to Addis Ababa.
Depart Dubai Emirates EK 723, 09.25
Arrive Addis Ababa 12.40
Welcome to the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’! Ethiopia is one of the world’s most extraordinary, yet least visited, countries. Lying in the mountains at an elevation of 2,500m, Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world. It enjoys a superb climate with an average year-round temperature of 25 degrees. On arrival in Addis Ababa we transfer to our hotel.
Best Western Hotel
08/02/2020 Addis Ababa (BLD)
Unlike nearly all other African cities, Addis Abba was not built as a colonial settlement. Rather, it was chosen by Emperor Menelik II in the 1880s to be the permanent capital of Ethiopia. Lying at the foot of Mount Entoto, Addis Ababa has a population of five million and is criss-crossed with wide avenues that are lined with eucalyptus and jacaranda trees, brought to the city by Menelik II. This morning we visit the fascinating National Museum where the oldest human skeleton ‘Lucy’ is on display. In the afternoon we drive up to Mount Entoto for a magnificent view of Addis Ababa.
09/02/2020 Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar (BLD)
This morning we start our 560km drive, on all asphalt road to Bahir Dar. After a few hours we catch our first sight of the Blue Nile as we descend 1,400 metres into the spectacular Nile Gorge. We then ascend from the gorge onto a plateau and continue through to Bahir Dar on the shores of Lake Tana, and the source of the Blue Nile.
10/02/2020 Bahir Dar (BLD)
Bahir Dar was the capital of Ethiopia in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This attractive town was, and still is, an important commercial centre. This morning we visit the Blue Nile Falls. Here the river pours over the side of a sheer 42 metre high crevasse forming dense mists and rainbows. In the afternoon we see the Blue Nile emerging from Lake Tana, transporting the lake’s vast silt deposits to Khartoum and the Nile Valley in Egypt.
11/02/2020 Bahir Dar – Gorgora – Gondar (BLD)
Today we board a boat to explore Lake Tana’s famous island monasteries, founded in the Middle Ages. In the afternoon we visit local villages as well as the colourful marketplace, where traditional wares such as baskets, pottery and hand-woven clothes are traded. We continue by boat to the northern shore of Lake Tana and the town of Gorgora, where we disembark and continue by road to the fabled highland city of Gondar, popularly known as ‘Ethiopia’s Camelot’.
Inn of the Four Sisters
12/02/2020 Gondar (BLD)
Gondar was the 17th- and 18th-century capital of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Fasilides around 1635, the city is famous for its stunning medieval castles and beautiful churches. This morning we explore this amazing UNESCO World Heritage-listed complex. In the afternoon we drive to the nearby Simien Mountains where canyons, gorges and soaring 4,000m peaks create a startling wilderness. In places the dramatic topography, dominated by basalt lava flows, is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
13/02/2020 Gondar – Khartoum (BLD)
Leaving Gondar, we head north and after three hours we reach the Metema border. After clearing immigration on both the Ethiopian and Sudanese sides we continue through to Khartoum to arrive in the late afternoon.
14/02/2020 Khartoum (BLD)
Khartoum is the capital of Sudan and is located precisely where the Blue and White Niles merge. Today we visit this confluence of the two rivers before heading to the Presidential Palace where General Charles Gordon was beheaded in 1885.We also visit the stunning Archaeological Museum. In the afternoon we cross the White Nile to the suburb of Omdurman, which evokes a Middle Eastern atmosphere with its maze-like streets and huge Souq.
15/02/2020 Khartoum – Meroe – Atbara (BLD)
Today we start our journey northward. Soon after leaving Khartoum we reach a desert area that is dotted with huge granite boulders that form part of the dramatic 6th Nile Cataract. Leaving the asphalt road behind, we make the short drive to Mussawarat. Located in a valley, the ruins, which date back to the 1st century AD – are crowned by the Great Enclosure with its astonishing elephant carvings. We then move further north towards Meroe. Suddenly a field of pyramids rises from the desert sands, many of them perfectly preserved: this is the Royal Necropolis of Meroe. These are the tombs of the kings and queens of the Meroitic Kingdom which ruled the area for nearly a thousand years. The Meroe pyramids, immediate cousins of the Egyptian pyramids, are distinctly Nubian in style, with narrow bases and steep angles on the sides. Built between 2,300 and 2,700 years ago, they feature decorative elements from the cultures of Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome. When the ancient Egyptians abandoned pyramids for hidden tombs, the Nubians continued to use their pyramids. 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 a traditional way that has remained unchanged for centuries. For Millennia, sunrises and sunsets have lingered over these red, wind-sculpted sand dunes that encroach on this vast pyramid complex. After our visit here we continue on to Atbara.
Grand Atbara Hotel
16/02/2020 Atbara – Karima (BLD)
Today we drive further north where we cross the Nile and enter the vast Bayuda Desert. This expanse of 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.
17/02/2020 Karima (BLD)
Karima is a small and tranquil town close to the base of Jebel Barkal and south of the 4th Cataract. This area of the Nubian Desert is dominated by Jebel Barkal (meaning ‘holy mountain’ in Arabic) which can be seen from more than 40 kilometres away. This has been the theocratic heart of the Kingdom of Kush for more than a thousand years, and the monolithic red sandstone mountain of Jebel Barkal was considered to be the source of all creation and residence of the god Amun. After exploring the Jebel Barkal site we embark on our first cruise on the Nile River to El Kurru. These are the necropolises of the ancient capital, Napata that date back to the 7th century BC. They are the final resting place of Nubian King Tanwetamani and his mother, Queen Qalhata. Although there are dozens of tombs here, two in particular which have been excavated from the rock under partially collapsed pyramids, are wonderfully preserved. They are decorated with images of the Pharaoh and gods with multi-coloured hieroglyphic inscriptions.
18/02/2020 Karima – Old Dongola – Karima (BLD)
After breakfast we set out for Old Dongola, which is distinctive because the Kingdom of Dongola was a Christian Kingdom. It is recorded that during the 6th century BC, Christianity was propagated in the Nile Valley from Aswan all the way south to the confluence of the White Nile with the Blue Nile at modern-day Khartoum. One of the indications of the conversion to Christianity was the construction of numerous churches. It is said that the new churches quickly replaced pagan temples and royal tomb monuments as a symbol of prestige of both a church and the state. In Old Dongola, a church dubbed the ‘Old Church’ was demolished so that the ‘Church of the Granite Columns’ could be built over it. This was the largest church constructed in medieval Nubia, although the churches’ exteriors were generally plain, their interiors were beautifully decorated with frescoes. After our visit here we return o Karima.
19/02/2020 Karima – Kerma – Dongola (BLD)
This morning we head for Kerma where we find ourselves within 400 kilometres of the Sudan/Egyptian border. Kerma is probably the oldest inhabited town in Africa and a place of vast historical importance which has supported continual human existence for 8000 to 10,000 years, reaching its peak around 1800 BC to 1600 BC, when it was capital of the Kingdom of Kush. It was at this time that Kerma’s kings built two monumental mud-brick temples, known as deffufa; the oldest, and largest, mud-brick buildings on the continent. After our visit here we continue on to Dongola.
20/02/2020 Dongola – Wadi Halfa – Abu Simbel (BLD)
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 among yellow sand dunes and palm trees. The houses are painted and decorated with flowers and colourful patterns and the people who live in the area speak a different language from the Arabs. By lunchtime we reach the border, and after completing formalities, cross into Egypt and continue on to Abu Simbel.
21/02/2020 Abu Simbel (BLD)
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 opening. 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 breathtaking 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. The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan Dam on the Nile. This morning we visit Abu Simbel before the tourist convoy from Aswan arrives, giving us the opportunity to enjoy the solitude of this wondrous temple on the western bank of Lake Nasser. In the evening we attend a magnificent sound and light show which transports us to the time of the pharaohs and brings the ancient world to life.
22/02/2020 Abu Simbel – Aswan (BLD)
This morning we join our convoy for the journey to Aswan and, on arrival, we visit the High Dam. 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. Later we visit a Nubian village.
23/02/2020 Aswan (BLD)
Today we board a felucca boat to visit Elephantine Island, otherwise known as Kitchener’s Island. The island was given to Lord Kitchener in the 1890s as commander of the Egyptian army. Imbued from an early age with a great passion for beautiful palms and plants, Kitchener set about turning the entire island into the stunning Aswan Botanical Gardens. He imported plants from the Far East, India, as well as many countries in Africa. Today, the garden, which covers 6.6 hectares is filled with birds as well as hundreds of species of flora. After our visit we board the Jaz Jubilee for our three-night Nile Cruise to Luxor. In the evening we visit the famous spice bazaar in Aswan.
24/02/2020 Aswan – Kom Omb – Edfu (BLD)
Around noon we begin cruising north for our first stop at Kom Ombo. On arrival we disembark to visit the unusual double temple dedicated to the gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Haroeris (the falcon-headed god). Re-boarding our ship we continue sailing to Edfu. In ancient times, Edfu was a flourishing Greek city known as Apollinopolis Magna, after the chief God Horus-Apollo. Today this historically rich city is a friendly and commercial place were the local produce is sugar and decorative pottery.
25/02/2020 Edfu – Esna – Luxor (BLD)
The outstanding attraction of Edfu is the Temple of Horus – considered to be the best-preserved temple in Egypt, and we make an early morning visit here. The origins of the temple date back to the Ptolemaic times, between 237 and 57 BC. The Temple of Horus seen today is the compilation of 180 years of construction, additions, and inscriptions and consists of elements of both Egyptian temples and Greek architecture. After our visit we continue sailing north to Luxor.
26/02/2020 Luxor (BLD)
This morning disembark from our ship and visit the East Bank where we explore the complexes of Karnak and Luxor Temples. 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 today, an awe-inspiring sight. In the afternoon we cross the river and start to unravel the mysteries of the West Bank of Luxor visiting Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple and the Colossus of Memnon. Later we explore one of the most outstanding archeological sites in the world. Located in a secluded valley and discovered only in the 1900s, is the Valley of the Kings. 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 thousands of years ago, but we still see the fantastic painted hieroglyphics lining the corridors. Most tombs contained false entrances or false burial chambers to confuse robbers and deter them from finding the riches, which were thought to be needed in the after-life.
Sofitel Pavillion Winter Hotel
27/02/2020 Luxor – Cairo (BLD)
After breakfast we depart for Luxor railway station for our journey to Cairo.
Depart Luxor Train 23, 09.10
Arrive Cairo 19.35
Mercure Le Sphinx Hotel
28/02/2020 Cairo (BLD)
Cairo is 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. This morning we visit the Giza pyramid complex, where we see the Great Sphinx, which guards the bodies of the dead. With the body of a lion and the head of a man, this awesome limestone structure is more than 2,700 years old.
29/02/2020 Cairo (BLD)
As part of our city tour this morning we visit the incredible Archeological Museum, which houses the treasures of Tutankhamun. After our visit here, we explore Coptic Cairo – the old part of the city – with its famous Hanging Church, so-called because of its situation above a gateway in the old Roman fortress. In the afternoon we stroll through the medieval laneways of the Khan Al Khalili bazaar. Dating back to the 14th century, it is perhaps the most celebrated market in Africa, Always frenetic, almost everything can be bought here including camels and AK 47s, as well as gold, copper and spice.
01/03/2020 Cairo – Alexandria (BLD)
Today we travel 60 kilometres towards Alexandra stopping at Rosetta, which is located on the banks of one of the two main tributaries of the Nile where the great river forms one of the largest deltas in the world as it drains into the Mediterranean. The total length of its journey from Lake Tana to the Mediterranean is staggering 6,700 kilometres. After lunch we continue 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. The municipality was planned in squares, like a chessboard with two main streets interlaced vertically and horizontally extending from east to west as well as from north to south. Our hotel is located on the Corniche, a gorgeous waterfront promenade which runs along the Eastern Harbour ending at Montaza Palace. As we take our evening stroll, there are stunning views of the bay and the sea and the lights and atmosphere are enchanting.
Steigenberger Cecil Hotel
02/03/2020 Alexandria – El Alamein – Alexandria (BLD)
This morning we head to nearby El Alamein, a small town on the Mediterranean, which is renowned as the site of the decisive victory by the allies in WWII. It is estimated that nearly 90,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in a series of battles that took place on the sea and in the desert. It was the place where the battle for North Africa was won and today, thousands of graves in the Commonwealth, German and Italian war cemeteries are a poignant reminder of the terrible campaign. In the afternoon we return to Alexandria to see the Royal Library. Built in 2002, it is a memorial to the most important library in antiquity. The old library burnt down and many of its books were destroyed. We then visit the magnificent citadel and the vast botanical gardens of Montaza. Late evening we transfer to the airport for our homeward flight.
03/03/2020 Alexandria – Dubai
Depart Fly Dubai FZ 174, 02.55
Arrive Dubai 08.35
In Dubai we connect with the flight to our chosen Australian airport.
04/03/2020 Dubai – Australia
We arrive back home in Australia today.
Why is the Tour Fitness Level rated as ‘Active’?
This tour involves a reasonable amount of walking, climbing steps and stairs and getting on and off boats. Some of the areas we visit are quite remote and some of the accommodation is more basic due to this. In order to get the most from this tour it is important to have a good level of fitness.
If I travel alone, do I have to pay the single supplement?
If you do not want to share a hotel room with another person in the group, you will have to pay the single supplement. However, if you are willing to share we will team you up with another passenger of the same gender in the hotels. If a match-up is not possible, we will upgrade you at our expense.
How long is the flight from Australia to Entebbe?
Total flying time to Dubai is between 11 and 15 hours, depending on your Australian capital city of departure. Flight time from Dubai to Addis Ababa is just over four hours.
Is personal security a problem on this tour?
Security is not a big problem, however we remind our guests to take sensible precautions. These include not wearing ostentatious jewellery, not showing or counting money in public, and not going to certain areas at night. Basically it’s a case of using common sense, particularly in large cities.
Is there a dress code for these countries?
Dress codes for both men and women do apply in Sudan and Egypt. Women should wear long sleeves to cover the elbows and long pants or skirts to the ankle. Outside of Khartoum women may require a scarf or head-covering in public areas and mosques. Men are not permitted to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. In Egypt it is not as strict: men may wear long shorts, and women should ensure their knees and shoulders are covered.
How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?
Because almost everything is included, USD $900 per person is usually ample for the whole journey. However, if you’re a keen shopper and like to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs, you may require more.
Are credit cards acceptable?
Credit cards are not always accepted and ATMs will not always be readily available. In Sudan they are not available at all outside of Khartoum, and most ATMs in Khartoum are empty. Cash in small denominations of USD is recommended. The USD should be in good condition and post 2006. In Egypt credit cards are usually acceptable in major shops.
Do I need vaccinations for this journey?
A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory, and you must carry the vaccination certificate with you as it is required by Australian authorities on re-entry. Tetanus should always be up to date. Other recommended vaccinations are Typhoid, Cholera and Hepatitis A. Please consult your doctor for more information.
Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?
We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The hotels and restaurants we use are of a high standard in terms of hygiene. We recommend the use of hand sanitizer before each meal and occasionally during the day as we will be handling local money and visiting public places.
What is the climate like in February?
The weather will be pleasantly warm most of the time throughout the tour, with slightly higher temperatures – up to a maximum of 33 – in Sudan. It can be quite cool in the evenings.
If I want to travel to Africa before or after the group departs, is this possible?
It is possible, with reasonable notice, to fly to Dubai ahead of the group or stay on after the group has departed.
Do I need visas?
An Australian passport holder will need a visa for all three countries. These are included in the tour cost. Please note that we can obtain the Sudan visa for Australian passport holders only. Holders of other passports should call our office on 1300 856 661 for further information.
A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?
We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore practically everything is included in the tour cost.
What is the standard of hotels like on this tour?
We endeavour to use centrally located hotels throughout. The hotels on this trip are generally rated 4 star and of a high standard. In smaller regional areas, with fewer hotels, we use the best available. Due to the remote nature of some of the places we visit in Sudan, the accommodation is sometimes more of a ‘guest house’ standard – but still the best available.
What is the standard of the ship on the Nile cruise?
The ships we use for the Nile cruise are 4 – 5 star, with excellent facilities.
Are internet facilities available en-route?
Internet facilities are available in all the major centres and on board the ship. However in the country areas there is limited or no internet access.
Do mobile telephones work?
Telstra and Optus mobiles generally work throughout the entire journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming and a tri-band phone. Contact your service provider for further information.
How much should we tip the guides and porters?
There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tipping and gratuities are included in the tour cost.
Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.
The Hospital by the River
Dr Catherine Hamlin
Red Nile: A Biography of the World’s Greatest River
The Nile: The Longest River in the World
The Kingdom of Kush
The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt
Cleopatra: A Life