|2003||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|stewart ayu (canada):
I visited jebel barkal and karima in 1988. At the time I was not aware of the temples and town which did not appear to have been excavated yet. However, the pyramids were easy to find and climbing up onto the jebel was easy. Children guided me around the jebel as there were no tourists nor kiosk. nothing really. However, two half buried panthers were discernable. At the time I thought they were sphinxes but National Geographic did an article indicating they were panthers. Being there in 1988 was a priceless experience and perhaps more intimate than visiting the archeological sites in Egypt. And getting to Karima was quite an adventure. There was no road and the train took an arduous 40 hours. Getting from Karima to Aswan took about 18 days.
Date posted: March 2009 Paul Tanner (UK):
For a range of historic and logistical reasons the “Egyptian” ruins of Sudan are considerably less known than those of Egypt proper. Books on Egyptian archaeology rarely give more than a few lines to the sites south of Abu Simbel. Whilst Meroe (only on Sudan’s tentative list) is my favourite Sudanese site the inscribed site of Jebel Barkal is well worth visiting. As at all Sudan’s sites you are likely to be the only tourists there (what a contrast to Egypt!) and the atmosphere is heightened by the encroaching desert sand – you could almost be a 19c explorer reaching the sites for the first time!
The UNESCO “site” of Jebel Barkal consists of 5 locations. The “main” one is the “table topped” mountain of Jebel Barkal itself which is only around 100 metres high but dominates the flat Nile valley for miles around. Even though it was for long periods outside their area of direct control it was believed by the Ancient Egyptians to be the home of the god Amun. This was possibly because of sandstone pillar at one end (photo) which could be regarded as looking like a “Uraeus” (the cobra symbol of kingship). At the base of this and symbolically cut into the mountain lies a cave containing a temple to Mut the bride of Amun. Inside is a statue of the dwarf god Bes the protector god who helped in childbirth and promoted fertility. Below the Jebel are the ruins of a Temple to Amun from 15th C BC. Although there are a number of later Nubian Meroitic period pyramids around the Jebel it is its connection with mainstream Egyptian beliefs that gives the site its prime significance. Rameses the Great turned the temple into an important centre during that period when Egyptian influence over the area was strong. In Abu Simbel Amun is shown sitting inside a mountain thought to be Jebel Barkal.
The other locations relate more directly to the Nubian civilizations which had a separate existence from those of Lower and Upper Egypt. At El Kurru there is a royal Cemetery of the Kushite civilization. Two of the tombs can be entered and contain fine wall and ceiling paintings – but unless you are a great expert in the styles of different Egyptian periods you will not probably find these any more interesting than those which can be seen in Egypt. More interesting perhaps is the existence on this 1 site of pyramids built over a period of c 250 years from around 880BC showing a process of Egyptisation from low circular structures through to more “classical” pyramids. By the end of this period these Nubian rulers had taken over Egypt proper and ruled as the 25th Dynasty – using ownership of Jebel Barkal as providing legitimacy to be the true representative of Egyptian traditions. The other location which might reward non specialists is the royal Cemetery of the Napatan civilisation at Nuri on the other side of the Nile in sight of the Jebel and used by the later 25th Dynasty rulers. It contains a number of typically Nubian steep sided pyramids in various states of decay but without any visitable tombs.
We visited the Jebel and El Kurru but only viewed Nuri across the Nile by binoculars from the Jebel and from a viewpoint about 10 kms north (there is apparently a small local ferry). The Jebel is well worth climbing for sunset – it provides a fine view down on to the Temple of Amun and of the Nile valley. You can also see the holes thought to have been made to support wooden structures used in reaching the pinnacle to carve cartouches and cover the “Uraeus” with gold. The climb up is a bit rocky but a sand dune face provides for a rapid and safe descent down another side! The temples themselves can be visited in the morning. At El Kurru, some 20 kms south, all of the structures are very ruined and most visitors will need a book to assist any mental reconstruction of what they looked like (The Times “Ancient Civilizations” has such a plan). Amazingly flash photos are still allowed inside the tombs. Visiting the sites is tied up in bureaucracy – As of late 2005 each separate location costs $40 (up from $10 a year earlier) and both permission and payment must be arranged in Khartoum as the authorities don’t trust the local “Ghaffirs” with money (they presumably want it all for their own BMWs!!). The nearby town of Karima is the road/rail head (though the latter is closed). Roads from East and West to Karima are both desert tracks (with local pick up trucks or bus) but a sealed road East across the Bayuda desert is being built by the Chinese to support the Merowe Dam. If you come in from Wadi Halfa and Egypt you apparently need to go to Khartoum because of permit issues even though you will pass relatively close to the desert track to Karima at Dongola. For these reasons it may be simpler to give Jebel Barkal a miss and concentrate on the sites at Meroe, Naqa and Musawwarat (all Tentative List sites). It would be shame for committed Egyptologists or WHS enthusiasts but in many respects these sites are more accessible both logistically and in terms of what is “on show”.
Date posted: December 2005
Have you been to Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region ? Share your experiences!