Sunday, 18 July 2010

The best day ever!!!

Meroe (Bajarawiya) pyramids 
What a difference a week makes- last Saturday I had the best day out, ever, whilst this Saturday I was struggling with tiredness after the long journey (with compulsory middle-of-the-night check in) back to UK. Last Saturday was my last, for the time being in Sudan, and a friend arranged a trip out of Khartoum for me.

I had wanted to see the pyramids of Meroe since buying a guide book back in March and seeing the amazing photos, just like the one I took above. Despite my urging for an early start, I was picked up in a minibus at 8.45am and our next stop was at the fruit & veg market for supplies. Then we stopped to get a road permit, and finally we left the city heading north. People no longer need travel permits to travel to this part of Sudan, which actually makes it more difficult to travel as at the police checks they now have to note passport numbers, visa numbers, names of people traveling with you, shoe sizes etc., instead of you just handing a paper with your passport. One friend was getting quite angry with the delays, and then I caused a laugh by using one of the police check point desert toilets. I will not go into details, but it involved a low wall built of adobe bricks and a hole.

Around four hours after being picked up, numerous checkpoints, and about 230kms, finally, we arrived at the site, and it is quite amazing! Predecessors to Egypt's pyramids the Meroe pyramids stand like giant broken teeth emerging from the red sand, visible from the highway. Driving up we discovered that we had the site to ourselves, the half a dozen camel men, and a couple of police - this is not a tourist place like Giza. Some of the group preferred Egypt's pyramids, but I loved this isolation and lack of crowds. It was very, very hot, high 40s°C, which made walking in the sand difficult. The pyramids have been 'restored' in places, which helps to give an idea of what they were like before being destroyed by treasure hunters.We didn't cross the road to the Royal City, because it is overgrown and supposedly difficult to understand for amateurs.

Back in the minibus, and after a short prayer stop, we headed back south to visit Sabalooqa, which is at the 6th and final Nile Cataract, just 60kms north of Khartoum. Due to the rains and opening of dams to provide irrigation at this time of year the river was enormous. Of course, we took a boat ride on the river, before the final drive back to the city. I arrived at my hotel at 9.15pm, tired, sweaty (did I mention the AC in the bus stopped in the morning???), very dusty, but with an enormous smile on my face due to the fabulous trip we'd had.

Thank you Hazim for arranging everything.