We arrive at our home for the next several days, Meroe Tented Camp, located in the remote desert land in Sudan. Meroe Tented Camp is owned and run by the same people as the Nubian Rest House in Jebal Barkal and is the only decent place to stay in the area. It is a permanent tented camp overlooking the Meroe pyramids. There are 20 tents here with private bathrooms in the stone hut to the back of the tents. Power is provided by generator until 10:30 pm.
View of the Meroe pyramids from our tented camp
Meroe Tented Camp
Tents on the left and bathroom in these stone huts on the right. A bit of a pain every time you need to use the toilet but at least you get your own private bathroom hut.
Meroe was an important city even before it took over Napata as the latter day capital of the ancient Kingdom of Kush. It was also known as the Island of Meroe because it is bounded by the waters of the Nile, the Atbarah, and the Blue Nile. There was mention of this ancient city in the Book of Genesis and was called “Aethiopia” meaning the “place of burnt faces”. It was a rich city mainly from trade and its superior skill in ironworks making its tools and weapons highly sought after. Meroe became capital of the Kingdom of Kush in around 300 BC until the middle of the 4th century AD when the kingdom was conquered by the Kingdom of Aksum (modern day Ethiopia). What remains here is the most extensive Nubian pyramid site in Sudan with over 200 pyramids discovered divided into three areas, the South Cemetery, the North Cemetery, and the West Cemetery. The southern and northern cemeteries were royal necroplises whereas the western cemetery was the burial site for the Kushite nobles. Over 40 kings and queens were buried here in these pyramids of Meroe. The pyramids here are different from the better known ones in Egypt in that they are smaller (the tallest being 30 meters high) but have a much steeper angle and were constructed with large blocks of sandstone. These Nubian pyramids have no burial chamber inside. Instead the tomb itself is dug below the pyramid and connected to the outside through an inclined tunnel. Each pyramid has its own funerary chapel in front with highly decorated walls inside depicting scenes with the gods. Unfortunately, many of these pyramids were destroyed in the 19th century in hopes of finding gold when the Italian treasure hunter Guiseppe Ferlini had found gold in the tip of one of them in 1834. The Kushites left many pyramids concentrated in a relatively small area with very few tourists visiting making you really feel like Indiana Jones on one of his adventures. The archaeological sites of the Meroitic Empire became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
The southern necropolis at Meroe was used a burial site from the 8th century to the first half of the 3rd century BC.
Southern Cemetery of Meroe features 9 royal pyramids and almost 200 other tombs.
Southern Cemetery of Meroe
Looking out to the Northern Cemetery from the Southern Cemetery
View of the Northern Cemetery
Southern Cemetery of Meroe has 4 pyramids belonging to the Kushite kings and 5 belonging to the queens or candaces.
Northern royal necropolis of Meroe was established by Amanitekha in the second half of the 3rd century BC
Northern Cemetery of Meroe
Unfortunately, many of these pyramids were destroyed in the 19th century in hopes of finding gold in the tip after Italian treasure hunter Guiseppe Ferlini had found gold in the tip of one of them in 1834.
These pyramids in the front were restored to look like what they would have been in the past.
Over 40 kings and queens were buried here in the Northern Cemetery of Meroe
Pyramid of Queen Amanitore in the northern necropolis
Pyramid of Queen Amanitore who was one of the great warrior queens or candaces of Nubia in around 1 BC and was co-regent with King Natakamani but it was unclear whether she was his wife or his mother.
Bas relief inside the Pyramid of Amanitore depicting the queen with nubian features.
Ancient funerary boat
The Kushites had their own written language based on the Meroitic alphabet which looks similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, the Meroitic language has yet to be translated.
Isis with her wings spread behind the seated queen.
On-going excavation and restoration works
Bas relief at the entrance of the pyramid of Queen Amanishekheto wearing the crown of all crowns called a hum hum crown
The Western Cemetery of the Meroe necropolis was used by the Kushite nobles. Most of the pyramids are now partially buried underneath the sand.
I love the forlorn and romantic feel to this place partially swallowed by the dunes of the desert.
Not far from the pyramids is what remains of the Royal City. Little can be seen here though there is evidence of temples and water channels.
We went back to the sand dunes facing the Northern Cemetery of Meroe to watch the sun go down behind the pyramids.
Other than the pyramids here at Meroe, two other sites, Naqa and Mussawarat, together make up the UNESCO archaeological sites of the Meroitic Empire. I will talk about Naqa and Mussawarat in my next post. Stay tuned!
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