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Sudan: Nuri pyramids

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Nuri pyramids | Sudan | Africa

[Visited: March 2014]

After having a lunch break at the market of Karima, we walk along the train tracks alongside the river Nile. We have heard that there are small boats crossing the river, and the possibility to visit Nuri like that. It sounds interesting, and we find a rare traveller who is looking for the same boats. People do point us further upstream, but when we see some small boats on the river bank, no one is around, and on the other side, we do not see anyone either. We decide to take the minibus after all. When asking around at the bus stand in Karima, we are told that the minivan which is almost full can drop us off at the pyramids, but when we arrive after a half hour drive, it turns out to that Nuri is the other way and we have to catch yet another minivan. When we finally arrive in Nuri, it is a short walk to the pyramids. We are still early, and the ancient structures are still baking in the sun. We take a break at the foot of one of them. Two guys come to us, separately, to ask for tickets, and as in El Kurru, it turns out we had to buy it before arriving at the museum. We manage to convince the guys that we are staying with someone working at the museum and that we will pay later. One of them lingers around for a while, before disappearing behind one of the pyramids. Other than these two men, we do not see anyone else at the site, which adds to the feeling of desolation of the place.

Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Desert and pyramids at Nuri

When the sun is finally lower and the light more friendly, we start a discovery walk around the pyramids. The shadows on the eastern side are getting longer, and seeing the pyramids from various angles gives us the full picture. On the other side of the pyramids, we see a small village, and we walk back towards the sun side of the big monumental structures. We are at the edge of the desert; the pyramids are slowly being claimed by the sand. You can actually climb to the top of some lower ones over sand dunes that have formed over time. The biggest pyramid here houses the remains of Taharqa, the 7th century king and one of the most remarkable Kushite kings, and a ruler over the largest extent the Nubian empire ever knew. His pyramid was the first to be built here, and it meant a move from the royal cemetery we had seen earlier that day at El Kurru.

Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Pyramid with sand dune at Nuri

The pyramids are all rough ruins of the polished structures they must have been once upon a long time ago. No smooth surface like the pyramids at Jebel Barkal. Even the large blocks of stone with which the pyramids have been built have not been respected, and some of them have been removed to be used in much more recent, and down-to-earth, buildings in the neighbourhood. But the state of decay of these pyramids is precisely their attraction. Towards the Nile in the west, there are much smaller pyramids which are even more ruined: here, the queens were buried. When the moment comes to leave, we start walking back, looking at the pyramids again, before walking to the small roundabout where a minivan fills up quickly.

Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): The pyramids of Nuri are surrounded by desert
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Three pyramids rising from the desert sand
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): One of the crumbling pyramids of Nuri rising from the sand
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Sand dune with several pyramids in the background
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Two of the pyramids rising above the desert sand
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Row of pyramids at Nuri in the afternoon
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Desert landscape with pyramids at Nuri
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Row of pyramids with sand forming around them at Nuri
Picture of Nuri pyramids (Sudan): Taharqa, the most powerful ruler in Sudanese history, is buried in the biggest pyramid; the smaller ones are for queens

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