Sudan’s pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt’s, go unvisited

Friday 01/05/2015
Priceless relics

Al-Begrawiya - The small, steep pyramids rising up from the desert hills of northern Sudan resemble those in neigh­bouring Egypt but, unlike the famed pyramids of Giza, the Sudanese site is largely deserted.
The pyramids at Meroe, some 200 kilometres north of Khartoum, are rarely visited despite being a UNESCO World Heritage Site like those in Egypt. Sanctions against the government of longtime Presi­dent Omar al-Bashir over Sudan’s long-running internal conflicts limit its access to foreign aid and donations, while also hampering tourism.
The site, known as the Island of Meroe because an ancient, long-dried river ran around it, once served as the principle residence of the rulers of the Kush kingdom, known as the Black Pharaohs. Their pyramids, ranging from 6 metres to 30 metres tall, were built between 720 and 300 BC. The entrances usu­ally face east to greet the rising sun.
The pyramids bear decorative elements inspired by pharaonic Egypt, Greece and Rome, according to UNESCO, making them priceless relics. However, overeager archae­ologists in the 19th century tore off the golden tips of some pyramids and reduced some to rubble, said Abdel-Rahman Omar, the head of the National Museum of Sudan in Khartoum.
On a recent day, a few tourists and white camels roamed the site, watched by a handful of security guards. Sudan’s tourism industry has been devastated by economic sanctions imposed over the con­flicts in Darfur and other regions. Al-Bashir’s government, which came to power following a blood­less Islamist coup in 1989, has struggled to care for its antiquities.
But Omar said Sudan receives just 15,000 tourists a year.
(The Associated Press)

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