Karima, once a thriving region in the Nubian kingdom, now seems like a remote desert outpost. Not many travelers make their way this far, ignoring Sudan’s historical gems for Egypt’s pyramids instead. And that means that determined seekers of history will be richly rewarded for making the long trek to this dry landscape that the kingdom of Kush called home. Karima’s UNESCO-listed tombs, pyramids, temples, and crumbling palaces are anchored in the endless sand. The only movement you may see in Karima is a lonely camel passing by, gently kicking up dust into the desert air.
Signs of life are sparse, but they do exist. Isolated groups of nomads live in small huts topped with wool blankets. They gather salt from around a jade-colored crater pool, carrying it on camel-back to sell in the local markets. Multicolored floral patterns painted on the whitewashed walls of Nubian village homes add a dash of visual interest in a mostly golden-hued landscape. With Ker & Downey you can visit a typical home where women wear bright dresses greeting outsiders with a smile, their hands decorated with swirling henna. Chai houses give weary travelers a chance to sit and sip on tea. Water is extracted from deep wells with ancient pulleys. It’s as though life has stood still in Karima.
Climb up to the top of the flat-topped Jebel Barkal, a sandstone mountain that can be seen for miles rising above the acacia trees. Napata grew around the base of Jebel Barkal, holding onto the title as the Nubian spiritual capital from 800 to 400 B. C. This was where the Nubian kings came for their coronations. The necropolis under the pyramid is decorated with vivid murals of the pharaoh, gods, and hieroglyphics. The Kushite kingdom was a hybrid of Egyptian customs blended with their own.
The people of this ancient kingdom believed that this mountain was the home of Amun, the god of fertility and the sun. A temple dedicated to the deity stretches the size of two football fields at the mountain’s base. Inside, the oval-shaped royal symbols, inscribed blocks, and statues of bearded deities quietly reveal the stories of this royal dynasty. In the wall of the mountain, a five-chambered shrine built by King Taharqa is a canvas of detailed bas-reliefs. A long avenue lined with sculpted granite rams follows a path to what would have once been the banks of the Nile.
Though its course has changed, the ancient river still flows through the region. Farmers till the fertile land around the river’s banks. Mograt Island is a palm-laden oasis dividing two branches of the Nile. Cruise along the river, spotting crocodiles lounging on the banks of the Island of Sai.
One of the best preserved temples in the country is Soleb, built by Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the 14th century B.C. and visited by Tutankhamun. No fences or guards will keep you from wandering between the columns, examining the hieroglyphics. Cartouches decorate the arches, walls, and columns.
The ruins of a Christian Coptic temple sit on the banks of the Nile. Beyond that, the Bayuda Desert lies in an endless stretch interrupted by black basalt volcanic mountains.
Caravans from central Africa and the Red Sea once passed along these isolated routes. Among the undulating dunes, an expansive temple dedicated to the Pharaohs rests in Old Dongola. You never know what you may come across in these timeless sands.
A statue of King Taharqa was left in Tombos’ granite quarry for some lucky explorer to find 3,000 years later. The Kushite commander’s territory stretched from Libya to Palestine. His crown featured two cobras, one for Nubia, another for Egypt. But the history of this region dates back even further. Ancient rock engravings in Sebu hint at life during prehistoric times. Discover it all on a custom journey to Sudan with Ker & Downey.