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Sudan: Deffufas of Kerma

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Deffufas of Kerma | Sudan | Africa

[Visited: March 2014]

At first, we had thought to walk from the northern part of Kerma to the western deffufa, as we have most of the afternoon ahead of us, but when we ask for the way, people convince us it was better to take a minivan. We follow their advice - and would be very happy with that decision later on. When we get off on the main road, a short walk through a quiet neighbourhood takes us to the low, adobe wall around the deffufa - which is clearly visible. We walk past a few carcasses of cows, and reach the entrance of the deffufa. There are a few soldiers, who want to chat with us, before telling us that we had to get a ticket first at the counter, and that the ticket guy is at the market for lunch. When he shows up at his window, he invites us into his small office, where he offers us something to eat and drink. We ask for directions for the eastern deffufa, and people are surprised we wanted to walk. Since it is still hot and we have read the eastern deffufa was only 2-3 km away, we think of seeing the museum first, but unfortunately someone there quotes a price twice of what the soldiers had quoted, and we decide to go to the eastern deffufa first.

Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): The late afternoon sunlight on the western deffufa

It turns out to be a very pleasant walk on a sandy track through fields of barley between patches of palm trees. The ticket guy has drawn a small map for us, which proves accurate in the beginning, but which is always more unreliable the farther we get. We have to ask for directions several times, and people point us always further east. When we have walked more than an hour, it is clear that the information in our guidebooks is faulty - there still is no deffufa in sight. When we ask at a beautiful house where to go, we are invited in for tea, and for once, we kindly refuse. We are getting low on time. We cross a canal, continue on a dusty road, and greet the few people we see. When we finally reach a vast open area with a rather small deffufa inside, we know we had arrived. We walk to it, climb it for views over the area, which also allows us to clearly see the many circular tombs. Not much is known about the deffufas. The eastern deffufa served as a cemetery, where the royals were accompanied in the grave by a large amount of people and cattle that were sacrificed to accompany him in his afterlife. But little of that is visible now, leaving a lot to the imagination. It is a special experience to walk around and over the deserted deffufa with no one in sight on the large, empty space.

Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Sandy road connecting the western and eastern deffufa

While we had loved the walk to the eastern deffufa, we now realize we are running out of time, and are vigilant in case some kind of transportation is passing by. But there were no vehicles of any kind to be seen, except for a few guys racing by on horses. Then, a man steers his donkey cart on our road, towards the western deffufa, but he is just too far away. A little further on, we meet him again, chatting to two Sudanese dressed in white robes. They enthusiastically suggest we get on the cart, and we double-check if he is going to the western deffufa. The drive turns out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our entire stay in Sudan. The friendly donkey driver whips his obedient white donkey that pulls his old squeaky cart on the sandy road, while trying to sing and hum along with us in languages foreign to him - managing surprisingly well. We all have a great time driving through the fertile fields; it is certain the driver also carries the memories in his humble heart. The sun is casting a golden light over the greenish landscape. The sun is already low above the horizon when we arrive, so we say goodbye and enter the western deffufa. More developed and visited, this one towers higher above the ground, and climbing it gives great views of the countryside around Kerma. It also allows you to see particularly shaped patterns on the ground. This is the biggest, and probably also the oldest, structure made by humans in sub-Saharan Africa. When the sun is gone, we descend, and are invited over at a wedding party outside the museum, and are stuffed with drinks and snacks. Getting back to our shabby "hotel" is not as straightforward as it seems - but that story should be told elsewhere.

Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): The western deffufa rising high above the surroundings
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): The eastern deffufa stands in a vast open space
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): View over the vast cemetery at the eastern deffufa, revealing many tombs
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): The western deffufa just before sunset
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Looking up the eastern deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): The western deffufa towering high above the ground
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Circular bases of columns in rows at the foot of the western deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): White-robed man coming down the western deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Circular and rectangular forms on the ground as seen from the western deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Fertile land between the western and eastern deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Decoration on a stone found in the eastern deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Canal between the western and eastern deffufa
Picture of Deffufas of Kerma (Sudan): Corner of the adobe wall surrounding the western deffufa

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