Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Glimpses of Sudan’s forgotten pyramids

The site was almost deserted. Some locals were upset after recent restoration work, and young camel drivers were looking for customers. In the afternoon heat, the bright glow of the desert helped to focus my attention on the pyramid itself.

Located on the eastern bank of the Nile River, Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, about 150 miles north-east of the Mero Pyramid – about 200 in total, many of them in ruins – seem in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. Stayed, as the wind smoothed their edges to accommodate them between the dunes.

The whole 30 years of dictatorship Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who led Sudan through a long series of wars and famines, saw the Pyramids of Mero with few international visitors and remained relatively unknown.

But in the midst of the many consequences of the revolution Mr. Al-Bashir was removed in 2019. – with Removal of Sudan From the United States’ list of terrorism sponsors in 2020 – it was hoped that the country’s archaeological sites could receive widespread attention and protection, not only from researchers and international visitors, but also from Sudanese citizens themselves.

I traveled to Sudan in February and March of 2020, just a few days before there was an outbreak of epidemic in my home country Italy.

I was attracted to a nation which, through the strength, creativity and determination of its people – managed to free itself from a dictatorship. And I was keen to meet and photograph the heroes and young actors of this historic moment.

At the end of 2018, Mr. Al-Bashir, the former dictator, had Subsidies on fuel and wheat ended, Leading to an increase in prices. It was not too late for the tired people to react.

a Demonstration wave Not far from the capital Khartoum, on the streets of many towns. These were Sudanese of all ethnicities, classes and generations – but above all students and young professionals.

During my travels, two young Sudan doctors in their 20s, Amar Abdullah and Toudia Abdalaziz, made me walk through the streets of Khartoum to see the symbolic sites of the revolution, public art – graffiti, murals, verses – miles. Afterwards showed me the way of the mile marked the protest sites.

When they told me about mero and Ancient nubiaThe name of the region, which stretches between Egypt and northern Sudan, I found that most people in Sudan never had the opportunity to visit these sites – including the doctors themselves.

For me, as an Italian, it was never a chance to travel to the Colosseum in Rome.

Ancient City of Mero – Part of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011 – Northeast along the Nile, is a four-hour drive from Khartoum. The pyramids here, built between 2,700 and 2,300 years ago, stand as a testament to the grandeur of the Kush Empire, a major power from the eighth century BCE to the fourth century AD.

Compared to the monumental pyramids in Egypt’s Giza, the structures of the Mero are almost small – from about 30 to 100 feet, against the Great Pyramid of 455 feet long – and their sloping stiers. However in Egypt, pyramids serve as royal burial sites.

In recent years, the pyramids at Mero – as well as other Sudanese archaeological sites up and down the Nile River, including the Pyramids, to the north – have been threatened by Rising flood waters, As well as the continuous effects of wind and sand erosion.

New hydropower plans The dams also endanger some archaeological sites in Sudan – as they have in the past, when the construction of the Merov Dam displaced and led tens of thousands of residents Frenzied archaeological hunt for artifacts Before they would be submerged by the dam’s reservoir.

The most notorious act of destruction in Meroe, however, is attributed to the Italian treasure hunter Giuseppe Ferlini, who in the 1830s Destroyed many pyramids In a ferocious search for ancient artifacts.

With one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding his phone, Noor, our driver, was accustomed to bringing visitors to Mero. Nevertheless, in our four-wheel-drive Toyota, we sometimes lose our way as we moved from one site to another through vast stretches of desert.

The local tour guide at the entrance to Mero invited us to take a camel ride, eager to remind us that this is a time-tested, if often neglected, tourist destination.

The atmosphere was very different at the Naqa archaeological site, located about 50 miles southwest of Mero.

We walked alone between the buildings, which also had a temple dedicated to Apedamek, a lion-like warrior worshiped in the god Nubia. On the opposite side of the site, Ram-shaped statues accompanied us to the entrance of the Amun temple, built around the first century AD and considered one of the most important archaeological structures and tourist attractions in Sudan.

A stone’s throw from Amun’s temple, a golden sunset illuminates a small herd of goats, chased by a young goat. Dusk will soon be settled. The drive back to Khartoum was a long one, and our driver warned me to speed up.

Back in Khartoum, where the two major tributaries of the Nile River – the White Nile and the Blue Nile – meet, Dr. Amr and Dr. Tewatia, along with her friends, gathered to celebrate the birthday.

Between the songs and the dances, Drs. Tewatia asked me what I thought about the archaeological beauties of his country – and to discuss the future of Sudan.

“The Sudanese have the right to reclaim their country,” he said, adding that he and his friends have long for a democratic society that can be open and accessible to all.

And, he said, they want a country that can show its treasure to its visitors and its people.

Alessio Mamo Is an Italian photojournalist based in Catania, Sicily, focusing on refugee displacement and humanitarian crises in the Middle East and the Balkans. You can follow his work instagram And Twitter.

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