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Sudan: El Kurru Royal Cemetery

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El Kurru Royal Cemetery | Sudan | Africa

[Visited: March 2014]

It turns out to be easy to find a driver with one of those small cars willing to take us to the royal cemetery of El Kurru. We want to squeeze in a visit to the pyramids at Nuri later on, which is why we opt for the luxury of a car. Passing through a desert landscape which remotely reminds me of the wadis of Oman, we reach El Kurru, which turns out to be a bigger village than I expected. We enter the area with tombs scattered around, of which we know only two are decorated inside, and which is the only Kushite site of this kind. We see some other foreigners - no tourists, but archeologists working on the site. When we descend into the first they kindly offer to step outside. Fortunately, we have taken torches, and before our eyes, wherever we point our lights, we see brightly coloured wall paintings of kings with animal heads, hieroglyphs, and other scenes. The ceiling is covered in yellow and red stars on a blue background, making it look very much like a sky. We take our time to see this royal and richly decorated tomb before we walk the stairs up again.

Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Animal-headed god inside one of the royal tombs of El Kurru

We walk past a small pyramid in the central area of El Kurru, and when we reach the second tomb, a rare group of tourists is already there to go down. We patiently wait, and men start asking for our ticket, claiming we should have bought it beforehand. We are unpleasantly surprised to learn that we had to arrange these tickets at the museum of the very guy at whose house we are staying, and who never mentioned anything of the kind, even though he knew that we were to visit El Kurru. To our surprise, the ghaffir, the caretaker of the site, locks the door when the tourists are out, and walks away. I call the guy of our homestay, who does not seem to see any problem. We all know that in the end, a solution will be found. Fortunately, we do not have to go back to Karima to get a ticket, but are allowed to pay for it later.

Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Close-up of Amun with cobras depicted on a mural inside one of the tombs at El Kurru

The ghaffir now opens the door again, and when we are inside, we are once more overwhelmed by beautiful and colourful wall paintings, quite different from the first tomb. We carefully study the walls and the various scenes depicted on it, one person handing Ankh, the sign of life, to a king lying on his back, and regret not knowing more about its symbolism and meaning. Here, too, the ceiling is completely covered in painting, adding to the overall experience of the tomb. We would have loved to stay longer, but we have more to see, and climb the stairs to daylight again. We walk past the central pyramid on the other side, and now see that a narrow tunnel has been dug, to investigate the contents and history of the pyramid. Even though the cemetery is more than 2,000 years old, there is always more to learn about its history. Sometimes, beautiful things can be found hidden in the ground, as the murals of the tombs have just shown us.

Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Offering of Ankh depicted on a mural inside one of the royal tombs
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Brightly painted starry mural inside one of the royal tombs of El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Stairs leading to one of the underground tombs of El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Colourful hieroglyphs painted on a wall inside one of the royal tombs of El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Lion-headed figure in a mural inside one of the royal tombs of El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Hieroglyphs painted on a wall inside one of the royal tombs at El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Animal-headed figure depicted on a mural inside a royal tomb at El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Mural inside one of the royal tombs of El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Detail of a mural at El Kurru with animal-headed god
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Richly decorated royal tomb at El Kurru
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): Fragment of a mural inside one of the tombs
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): The murals of El Kurru still have vivid colours
Picture of El Kurru Royal Cemetery (Sudan): The pyramid of El Kurru is still subject of research

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