When our driver Mohamed drives away after dropping us off at a small shack in the middle of nowhere, we wonder if we will really see him again. We have a deal: after showing us Naqa and leaving us here, he is supposed to go working, and come back in the afternoon to take us back to Shendi. Now that we are standing at Musawarat, and after seeing that there is no traffic at all on the track back to the highway, we feel that this site is, indeed, the isolated place we hoped to find. We leave our bags in the shack, where a young man is watching TV on a bed, and walk towards the Great Enclosure. We are surprised to find a team of Sudanese at work. Soon after we start exploring the ruins, a German archeologist approaches us, hands us a GPS device, and invites us to be interviewed about our visit. The ghaffir, or caretaker, follows us around on our tour of the ruined settlement. We have read about animal figures carved out in the sandstone blocks here, and walk around to spot them. Sure enough, we find a dog chasing a rabbit, plenty of camels, a few elephants; most of them alone. Unfortunately, over the years people have added their own graffiti, up to a point where for the casual visitor, it is not always easy to separate the original graffiti from the newer ones. We watch the men work, taking away sand from one part, and filling up the trench that has been dug before to explore underground.
We walk towards the small museum-like space where medium-sized blocks of stone are stored, but the gate seems to be closed and we only have a peek through the iron bars. We then walk towards Temple 300, one of the three best preserved or restored temples in the Great Enclosure of Musawarat. The outline of the temple is easily recognized, and at the entrance, we find carved statues of female figures flanked by snakes and lions. We walk across to Temple 100, the best preserved temple of Musawarat. Like other parts of the Great Enclosure, tilting ramps lead us up: there are no stairs. One of the explanations is that elephants were once used and perhaps trained here. In general, the purpose of Musawarat is not precisely known, just like Naqa. Was it a centre with some religious importance? Was it a pilgrimage site? Why was it located so far away from the river Nile, the lifeline of the region? Most settlements and temples were built in the immediate vicinity of that provider of precious water.
It is time now to visit the Lion Temple. It is located some 15 minutes away, outside the Great Enclosure, and a different ghaffir comes with us. We walk the sandy track; this is nomad land, and there are plenty of animals roaming around. The Lion Temple has a fence around it. The temple was completely reconstructed in the 1960s, so the protection is necessary. We have a quick look at the entrance of the temple, where we see crocodiles on the wall, and small statues of lions on both sides of the wooden door. Inside, a narrow window on both sides of the temple allows for light entering from above, shining on the reconstructed walls. The German archeologists have done a great job: the scenes of the gods, kings, slaves, and animals are put in place and look great. Our guide speaks just enough English to explain what we are seeing. Then, we have a look outside, where we find several depictions of lion-headed Apedemak to whom this temple was dedicated. When we are back at the Great Enclosure, we are invited for lunch with the archeologists working at the site, and have another peek around the complex before having an extensive interview with the supervisor. We are happy we have allocated plenty of time for our visit; and when we sit down at the building where we left our driver in the morning, we start to wonder: will he indeed show up as promised? What if he does not? We are totally prepared to wait for a while, and let the images of Musawarat sink in. But to our big surprise, at precisely 2pm, a small cloud of dust announces the arrival of a car, and it turns out to be our man. On the way back, we find out he has worked on one of the mobile phone masts, where he still has something to finish. The drive back to Shendi is a breeze, and we are invited to the home of our driver for a drink before we catch the bus to Khartoum.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Musawarat es Sufra (Sudan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Musawarat es Sufra.
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