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Sudan’s forgotten pyramids

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

If the pandemic allows, Sudan is hoping to become a major tourist destination for the more outward-bound travellers in the period ahead. Top of the must-see sights will be the largely forgotten pyramids of Meroë, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Kush, located on the Nile around 150 miles north-east of Khartoum.

Around 200 in total, organised in three main groups, the pyramids formed the royal cemetery of the Kushite rulers of a Nilotic civilisation at its peak between 300 BC and AD 350.

The Meroitic pyramids are, of course, overshadowed by the giant pyramids of Giza, and the Kushites no doubt drew their inspiration from these Old Kingdom monuments. But when the Meroitic pyramids were built, the Giza pyramids were already two millennia old, for the Kushites were a people of the Late Iron Age, not the Early Bronze Age.

The multiplicity of more modestly proportioned structures at Meroë creates a different experience. One is awed by the vastness of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, but charmed by the way in which the Meroitic pyramids blend serenely into their desert setting.

Other Sudanese sites beckon. Those frazzled by the honey-pot congestion of the Egyptian sites will discover remote but spectacular ruins at many places along the Sudanese Nile, like those at Naqa, 50 miles from Meroë, where there is a temple to the lion-headed warrior god Apedemak, a colonnade of stone rams leading to a temple of Amun, and many walls covered in finely-executed reliefs.

Neil Faulkner reporting.

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