El Kurru, Meroe Pyramids, Nagaa acheological site and Khartoum
After another night in the desert, we headed for El Kurru on our way towards Nagaa archaeological site. We arrived very early in El Kurru to visit the remains of dozens of tombs with most have either faded away to virtually nothing, or the entrances have been buried under tonnes of sand. However we were able to visit one of two tombs, cut into the rock and containing wonderfully preserved paintings and dating to the 7th century BC, this was the final resting place of King Tanwetamani. But first we had to find the key person in the village…so after asking around in town finally we met the right person to open the tomb for us.
Begrawiya (Meroe Pyramids)
On the way to Nagaa we visited the most famous Pyramids of Sudan, Begrawiya also known as Meroe Pyramids. At this site more than one hundred pyramids were discovered. The Meroitic Pharaohs thrived from the 8th century BC until a combination of encroaching desert and Abyssinians put an end to Begrawiya’s use as a royal cemetery in AD 350. Some of the tombs’ antechambers contain well-preserved hieroglyphics. Most of the pyramids are missing their top thanks to a 19th-century Italian ‘archaeologist’ who thought treasure might be contained within. Rather than going about the laborious task of opening them properly he merely chopped the tops off and, somewhat to the surprise of many people, he did indeed find treasure.
There are two main groups of pyramids here separated by several hundred metres of sandy desert. In total there are about 100 pyramids, or remains of pyramids. When we were walking the small patch between these two we were reminded how Ralph Fiennes walks through the desert in the souring heat to save his beloved in the movie The English patient. With the extreme heat in the desert we kind of felt the same…
For our camping spot for the night we drove the last part to Nagaa. Just behind the archaeological site we found a nice place to spend the night. It is in a very remote part of the desert, almost 40km away from the road from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum. During the night we woke up from the strong wind and needed to turn the truck around to shelter us from it. Early morning we visited the site. Nagaa is a complex of some temples; the well-preserved temple of Amun dating from the 1st century and the Lion Temple. Dating from the same period, this temple is dedicated to the lion-headed god Apedemak and has wonderful exterior carvings depicting the temples creators, King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore. So far it was the most impressive site we have visited in the North of Sudan.
In the afternoon we arrived in Khartoum and headed to the office of out fixer, Waleed, who confirmed that our KSA transit visas were ready. This means we can continue our trip as planned and cross the Middle East to Turkey. So with our visas sorted out we booked the car ferry from Suakin to Jeddah for this Friday, April 7th. So back in Khartoum we went to the Corinthia hotel for a nice lunch and some proper internet to update the travel blog…and yes, a 20-50mb connection as we have at home is definitely not a given here in Africa!