150 km north of Khartoum Shendi is a good base for seeing a bit of desert as well as temples of the Meroe culture.
The town itself is far from exciting and good food and accommodation are pretty rare in these parts. The temple of Musawwarat, which is actually a reconstruction, is close to town. At a distance of about one and a half hours, the temple of Naqa is offers some impressive structures left. A round trip to both is about 120 km but it will take up at least a whole day.