You will find the forgotten pyramids in the ancient city of Meroë, the capital of the Kingdom of Kush, an ancient African kingdom situated in what is now the Republic of Sudan. They are on the east bank of the Nile near Shendi, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. During Egypt’s 25th dynasty (760 BC until 656 BC), Meroe, was ruled by Nubian kings who had conquered Egypt. Throughout their history, the two societies maintained extensive trade and cultural ties, leading to the Sudan pyramids.
The Pyramids of Meroë have been granted UNESCO World Heritage status but are rarely visited or spoken about. Whilst the infamous Pyramids of Giza are much larger and more majestic constructions, Sudan has over 220 pyramids which is twice that of Egypt. The Meroë pyramids, with narrow bases and steep angles on the sides, were built around 2,500 years ago, are literally a necropolis for royal burials. In Egypt, Nubian kings and queens were buried with gold, jewellery, pottery, pets and even food.
Some of the pyramids site around Karima (Kingdom of Napata) are in a state of disrepair, some of the bricks are being used by locals to build their houses but the Meroë site is slowly being restored. I just had to see them for myself. We visited a smaller burial site for the more common folk of the Kushite Kingdom. Unlike the Egyptian counterparts, pyramids were not only built for royalty and the upper-elite of society.
Camping by the pyramids of Meroë
To see the Pyramids of Meroë at sunrise the best option is to set up camp right next to the site as you need to up and ready by around 5.45am. This to me is the only way to see the pyramids, you are guaranteed to have the site to yourself at this time giving you perfect photo opportunities. The beautiful golden glows on the pyramids and the desert that change as the sun comes out are simply magical. Breakfast was only a short walk back at the camp so we could refuel before heading off to see the Royal City and the neighbouring archeological digs.
Tips before you go to the Pyramids of Meroë
- The trip from Khartoum is around 4 hours and there is possibility of some waiting at checkpoints.
- The pyramids really are off the beaten track so any supplies you need, get them before you go. No corner shops for last minute shopping.
- We visited in October and when the sun came out, it was very hot. Loose, thin clothing, hat and sunscreen are vital.
- Generally, in the desert it gets cold at night, in October you will not need a jumper. It was still very warm throughout the night. This apparently changes in December and January.
- For ladies, remember this is a Muslim country and must be covered on legs and arms (I took my long cover off for a photo and there was nobody around at sunrise, my shorts are not the correct example of attire in Sudan)
- Take some smaller notes to buy from the Bedouin kids selling handicrafts, they don’t get many visitors so good to give back!
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