Most interesting landmarks of Sudan

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Sudan.

Natural landmarks of Sudan

Kurchi Baobab in Nubi Mountains, Sudan. Girth of this tree is approximately 22 - 27 m
Kurchi Baobab in Nubi Mountains. Girth of this tree is approximately 22 – 27 m / Maureen Didde, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
  • Sabaloka Gorge (the 6th Cataract of Nile, Sabaluka Falls) – Khartoum. Rapids on Nile. The mighty river here is squeezed into narrow, rather shallow gorge and in some places is just 170 m wide, while before and after the falls it is 400 – 700 m wide.
  • The 3rd Cataract of Nile (Ilokol Rapids) – Northern state. In the southern part of cataract is a 1.2 km long rock threshold – a band of granite across Nile, forming impressive rapids.

Man made landmarks of Sudan

Before the kingdom of Kush

  • Cemetery 117 – Northern state. The oldest known cemetery of war victims. Three cemeteries, dated 12,340 – 11,140 BC. Here found remnants of 59 bodies, some 40% of them have violent wounds – e.g. stone projectiles of spears or bolts in their bodies.
  • Dirbi Island rock gongs and petroglyphs – River Nile, 4th Cataracts (to be flooded by Merowe Dam). There are found rather many ancient rock gongs around the 4th Cataract of Nile, but the highest concentration is on Dirbi Island. Found also numerous petroglyphs.
  • El-Barga cemetery – Northern state, near Kerma. One of the most ancient necropolises in Africa. Burials here were made by some of the first settlers of Africa in 7300 – 5500 BC.
  • Karkur Talh rock art – Northern state. A dry valley of Karkur Talh near the border with Libya and Egypt, in the rugged Jebel Uwainat mountains. One of relatively green places in Libyan desert, which in earlier times most likely was even more green. Numerous cliffs here are adorned with well preserved cliff art – paintings and engravings.
  • Wadi Abu Dom Rock Art – Northern state. Unusual site of rock art some 30 km from Nile. 15 known rock art sites contain at least 5,000 years old carvings of mysterious symbols: spirals, cupules, something like nets. Part of carvings show Christian symbols and might be created some 1500 years ago. Found also rock gongs, which can be heard for a long distance.
  • Wadi El-Arab – Northern state, near Kerma. Very ancient settlement, inhabited in 8300 – 6500 BC. Found remnants of domesticated ox.
  • Zolat el Hammad – Northern state. Important petroglyph site. Drawings are made by proto-Berbers several millenia BC. Images of people are without hands, with large, round heads. Also shown antelopes, elephants, ostriches and other animals.

Kingdom of Kerma

Ruins of the giant deffufa in Kerma, Sudan
Ruins of the giant deffufa in Kerma / Lassi, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Kerma (Doukki Gel) – Northern state. Former capital of the Kingdom of Kerma. Development of this ancient city started around 3000 BC, although people here settled already in Mesolithic period. Kerma evolved into the center for one of the earliest African civilizations. City contained a protected zone for elite population. In the city are located ruins of two enormous towers – deffufa – religious buildings. It is possible that the royal palace was a round building, also royal tombs are circular.
  • Saï Island fortress – Northern state. Island in Nile, inhabited for at least 100 000 years. Here are located extensive ruins of Egyptian fortress and temple (the 15th – 14th century BC). Nearby located also very ancient necropolis, starting from the times of kingdom of Kerma, including the later ancient Egyptian, Napatan, Meroitic and later burials. Graves have eroded and human remains are scattered around the island.

Monuments of Ancient Egypt

  • Sesebi (Sessibi) – Northern state. Remnants of a fortified town, built by pharaoh of Egypt Akhenaten around 1340 BC. Remnants of four temples.
  • Tombos – Northern state. Southernmost Egyptian settlement – colony, inhabited around 1550 BC. In the cliffs around Nile were important Egyptian inscriptions and drawings. Here is located also a later Kushitic cemetery with more than 2,000 tombs. Some tombs have small pyramids over them.
  • Uronarti, Shelfak – Northern state. Ruins of ancient Egyptian fortresses – settlements on island in Nile. These are the few Egyptian outposts in Nubia, remaining above the level of Lake Nasser. Fortresses were built here in the 19th century BC, with 5 m thick and 10 m tall walls.

Nubian monuments before the kingdom of Kush

  • Hillat al-Arab – Northern state. Cemetery which was in use in 1200 – 750 BC, already before the establishment of the kingdom of Kush. Some 20 tombs are cut in cliffs, some have several rooms. Primitive frescoes found on the cliff walls.
  • Kawa – Northern state. Ruins of an large (40 ha) ancient town and religious center at the bank of Nile. Flourished in the 14th – 4th century BC.

Kushitic monuments

  • El Kurru pyramids – Northern state. Group of pyramids some 10 km south from Jebel Barkal. Oldest graves are not pyramids and were created sometimes around 860 BC. Oldest pyramid was built around 716 BC, next to it are 24 graves for horses. Pyramid of king Tanatomun (664 – 655 BC) and his mother Qalhata still contain well preserved frescoes and hieroglyphs.
  • Gala Abu Ahmed fortress – Northern state. Ruins of impressive Kushitic fortress in empty desert, 110 km from Nile. Built around 750 – 350 BC, but there is evidence that this site was used already 1100 BC. The purpose for the construction of this fortress is unknown.
  • Hamadab – Northern state. Ruins of ancient city some 3 km south from Meroe. Site consists of two large hills and is approximately as large as Meroe. City was enclosed with a wall and might be abandoned in the 4th century AD.
  • Jebel Barkal (Gebel Barkal) – Northern state. A small mountain – the southernmost outpost of Ancient Egypt, established sometimes around 1450 BC. Mountain has been a sacred places since these times or even earlier. Later here, in the neighboring Napata city developed independent kingdom of Kush. Notable monuments are the steep-sided pyramids, where were buried kings of Meroe in the 3rd – 1st century BC.
  • Meroë – River Nile. Ruins of ancient city, former capital of the kingdom of Kush in 800 BC – 350 AD. Most amazing monuments are more than 200 pyramids, mostly in ruined state – an ancient necropolis. Once important metallurgical center.
  • Musawarat es-Sufra (Musawarat) – River Nile. Ruins of ancient Kushitic ceremonial center, flourishing in 270 BC – 350 AD. Remains of several temples, including the Great Enclosure which includes three main temples.
  • Napata – Northern state. Ruins of ancient city-state, a capital of the kingdom of Kush in the 8th – 7th century BC. Ruins of 13 temples, 3 palaces.
  • Naqa – River Nile. Interesting ruins of ancient Kushitic city. City flourished in the 2nd century BC – 4th century AD. Ruins of two temples devoted to Amun and Apedemak and several more temples.
  • Nuri pyramids – Northern state. Necropolis, where the kings of Meroë were buried for three centuries. Started in the 7th century BC, contains 20 pyramids up to 40 m high. Burials were adorned and inscribed with magical writings. In the burials were located mummies.

Landmarks of the Christian states of Makuria, Nobadia and Alodia

Frescoe from Nubian church, National Museum of Sudan
Frescoe from Nubian church, National Museum of Sudan / It shows three youths who have to endure a probe with fire (Book of Daniel). Ibrahim Omer, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Banganarti churches – Northern state. Important center of Christian pilgrimage near Old Dongola. In the 7th – 9th century Banganarti was an island in Nile with several beautiful churches, adorned with multiple frescoes and graffiti. Latest inscriptions are from 1350 AD.
  • Faras – Northern state. Remnants of this city are now located under the water of Lake Nasser. Important ancient town for Meroitic and ancient Egyptian states. Flourished in the 5th century, when the city was a capital of Christian kingdom Nobatia. Here was built a cathedral and the frescoes of cathedral were in excellent state of preservation and represent the best example of Nubian Christian art. Now frescoes (more than 160) are located in Warsaw and Khartoum.
  • Kulb (Kulub) – Northern state. Former fortified Christian village, Christianity was practised here up to the 15th century AD. Here up to the recent times was located round church from the 12th – 13th century.
  • Old Dongola – Northern state. Former capital of the Christian state of Makuria. Founded as a fortress in the 5th century AD, soon evolved as a walled town. Several churches were built here in the 6th – 7th century, cathedral was built at the end of the 7th century AD. Declined in the 14th century, as it was invaded by Arabs.
  • Soba East – Khartoum. Ruins of the last capital of Christian state Alwa. First church was built here sometimes around 580 AD and in later centuries this town flourished and was rich and beautiful. Declined in the 12th – 13th century.

Other archaeological monuments

Streets of Suakin in 1884 - 1885, Sudan
Streets of Suakin in 1884 – 1885 / Felice Beato, The National Archives UK, Flickr, Open Government Licence
  • Ayn Farah – Northern Darfur. Ancient, little known site of potentially high importance. Ruins of Tunjur Christian monastery, which existed here around the 7th century AD. Possibly inhabited also in later times. Now here are seen ruins of several hundred brick and stone buildings, enclosed in a massive stone wall, which is 3 – 4 km long.
  • Baadi ruins, er-Rih Island – Red Sea. Ruins of old settlement of Islamic communities, established in the early 9th century AD.
  • Suakin (Sawakin) – Red Sea. Old, abandoned city on a rounded island in Red Sea. This ancient settlement experienced increase of importance in the 10th – 13th centuries, when it was still a Christian town. Declined in the 16th century. Now the active city is on the land surrounding the island, while the island is almost abandoned.
  • Uri – Northern Darfur. Former capital city of Tunjur people. This hilltop town was enclosed with a stone wall, there was also an inner citadel – a group of buildings enclosed in one more wall. Inside was located a mosque (around 1200 AD), ruler’s palace.

Other man made landmarks of Sudan

Burj Al-Fateh in Khartoum
Burj Al-Fateh in Khartoum / Petr Adam Dohnálek, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ
  • Burj al-Fateh (Corinthia Hotel Khartoum) – Khartoum. Skyscraper of unusual, egg-shaped form. Constructed in 2008, 18 floors.
  • National Museum of Sudan – Khartoum. Very important collection of archaeological artifacts, the best museum to learn about the ancient kingdoms of Nubia. Contains numerous exciting and unique values.

Described landmarks of Sudan

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Sudan is enormous and extremely interesting but, alas, rather little known country. Unfortunately, several parts of the country for decades are suffering from the warfare and there is little known about them.
Although Sudan might have all kinds of landmarks, these are overshadowed by the unique archaeological heritage. Sudan has been a cradle for several great cultures, each leaving interesting landmarks:

  • Kingdom of Kerma is one of the most ancient comparatively advanced cultures in the world. It flourished in the present-day Sudan in 2500 – 1520 BC. By far the most important landmark of this culture are ruins of Kerma but there are other sites as well.
  • Kingdom of Kush existed in 1070 BC – 350 AD and has left many monuments with very distinct style of architecture and art. Best known are the steep-sided pyramids of Meroë, Jebel Barkal, Nuri, Kurru.
  • The Christian states – Makuria, Nobadia and Alodia (Alwa) – existed in the 4th century – 1504. Their legacy is the sites in Old Dongola (capital of Makuria), Faras (capital of Nobadia) and Soba East (capital of Alodia), as well as other sites.

Exciting are the landmarks left by very old cultures, which existed before the kingdoms – such as the rock gongs along Nile and in other sites (Dirbi Island, Wadi Abu Dom), the oldest known cemetery of war victims (Cemetery 117).
Too little known is the heritage of war-torn Darfur and Kordofan, but there are reports about the grandiose ruins at Ayn Farah in Darfur.

Recommended books

Sudan (Bradt Travel Guides)

Sudan is vast, ranging from desert lands in the north to tropical forest in the south. Its wildlife rivals eastern Africa and it is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa. This is the only stand-alone guide on the market and delves deep into the country’s past, bringing to life its cultural heritage and history.

Dinka: Legendary Cattle Keepers of Sudan

This seminal volume on the indigenous African Dinka group is a landmark documentation of a vanishing people in war-torn Sudan. World-renowned photographers Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith have devoted their lives to documenting the rapidly disappearing ceremonies and cultures of the indigenous people of Africa. In breathtakingly poignant images, they present a story that started with their first visit to the Dinka thirty years ago.

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