Explore Ancient Kush as Sudan opens up

Kush, once an influential civilization in Africa, is nothing more than a forgotten relic of its glorious past.

Located in Northern Sudan, the ancient rulers of Kush reached the height of their power after conquering their Egyptian neighbors in 8 B.C. The conquest of Egypt and extended their arm of influence into the Sinai and the larger Middle East.

The Sudanese capital Khartoum is where the Blue and White Nile converge, creating the mighty Nile River that empties in the Mediterranean Sea.

The early inhabitants of Sudan date back tens of thousands of years. Tracing back 5,000 B.C the people were fishermen, hunters, livestock keepers, and land cultivators. The ever-flowing Nile River kept the land fertile, encouraging the once nomadic residents to settle, farm and form communities.

Kerma era

As the climate dried up over the years, more people settled along the Nile Valley resulting in the mushrooming of urban centers. To create order, a system of hierarchy headed by chiefs was established. The Kushites then settled around Kerma and built impressive buildings some of which stood 18 meters high. Remains of the buildings or ‘deffufas’ still stand today in Sudan. The Western deffufa was believed to be a massive temple, while the eastern deffufa was a chapel surrounded by marked graves.

The king-rulers of Kerma reigned for a thousand years. Kerma was the first urban center in the sub-Saharan region. The significance of the kingdom is its unification of all Sudanese tribes creating a formidable economic and military power that even ransacked Egypt in 1650.

Napata era

Another city-state formed by the Kushites was Napata, which started as a trading post before growing in population. It had religious significance due to the close proximity to Mt. Jebel Barkal. The mountain was the sacred seat of the god Amun Ra. The locals maintain several traditional customs from the olden day such as cooling water and earthen-ware storage.

Pyramid ruins

Thus far there are over a thousand discovered pyramids in the Sudan region. Of this number, about 300 remain as noticeable pyramid-like ruins. Most of the ruins seem to be shaved off at the top by vandals over the years who looted the tip that was decorated in gold. Many find it hard to believe a large number of pyramids in Ethiopia, while those in Egypt are about a hundred. The pyramids in Jebel Barkal are very distinct and well preserved.

Meroe ruins

Ruins of this ancient Kush city remain to this day 250 Km north of Khartoum. The ancient kingdom should not be mistaken for the modern-day city of Merowe. Iron ore made it an economic powerhouse and trade with other civilizations gave it significant wealth. Ruins of the royal city reveal remnants of a library, baths, cemeteries, temples and other attributes of urban life back then. The kingdom interacted with other civilizations such as the Romans and Greeks, evidence of which can be seen in some of their architecture. Eventually, the fall of Kush was precipitated by the rise of Aksum. 

Visit the Kush ruins in Sudan

The new power transition after the fall of former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has seen the country ease travel and visa restrictions while opening up the country for tourism. The Royal Pyramids of Meroe will be a major highlight of the country’s tourism strategy alongside the promotion of the ancient Kush culture. At Merowe, there is a visitor center that explains the history of the area pyramids alongside walking tracks and a reception.