Friday, 8 March 2013

Meroe Pyramids

A few weeks ago, a friend took Krista and I on a day trip to the Meroe pyramids and the royal city.  I had been once before, staying for several days with a large group of volunteers in Rami's home village.  It was great to have this opportunity to go back.  The site was the capital of the Kingdom of Kush for a few hundred years around the time of Christ.

We got an early start and watched the sun rise on the outskirts of Bahri as we headed north.
The long drive into the desert was surprisingly uneventful.  I waited until after we'd started the trip to warn my carmates that cars I'm travelling in usually break down on long journeys.
 After three hours of driving and my twice mistaking mountains for pyramids, we finally spotted the real thing (things?), the several dozen pyramids that make up Meroe's northern cemetery.
After paying a monstrous sum (ignorant tourist mistake--paying at least 10 to 25 times what we later discovered it should have been), we climbed up the sand dunes to explore the northern cemetery.
The northern cemetery has 41 royal tombs and 3 non-royal. I wonder if the pyramid below was for a non-royal or a very poor king.
The story goes that an Italian treasure-seeker found the pyramids in the 1800s.  Apparently, he discovered gold in the top of one of the pyramids and subsequently dynamited the tops of all the other pyramids, but the first one was the only one with gold at its top.
 The ruins of the rest of this room are buried in the sand behind.
We only explored the northern cemetery, but you can see the southern cemetery across a small valley.
Looking at southern pyramids from northern, with camelmen in forefront, hopeful we'll buy a short ride.
One of the most interesting parts about the pyramids is the drawings cut into the entrances of some of the pyramids.  It would be fascinating to view them with an archaeologist who could explain what they are all about.
We left the pyramids behind and met Rami and another volunteer in the village.  Rami made us a delicious breakfast before we all headed to the ancient royal city.
 The pictures above and below show the ancient temple to Amun (I think).
I can't get my head around how many bits of pottery and other artifacts scatter the ground.  The piece below interested me as, unlike most pieces, it was not from a pot, and had an interesting shape with two grooves.  I can only wonder what function it had.

After looking around the royal city, we waited at the gate for a while until Rami caught up with us.  Some kind guards (or a tour guide service, I'm not sure who), unexpectedly made us this amazing lunch.
I considered buying some of the curios for sale.  I didn't in the end, probably too influenced by growing up surrounded by curios in Malawi.  I did get to talk to a young 9-year-old vendor, though, and she let me snap her picture.
When we left the royal city, we stopped by the local school.  The headmaster was proud to pose beside the flag.
From there we drove home, stopping once on the way to drink juice.  Delicious.  I love how popular juice is in Sudan.
We returned to a very dusty gray Khartoum in the late afternoon.  The colors in the picture below were not altered; the air was that dirty.

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