Sunrise over orange-red dunes, constantly shifted by the light early morning desert breeze that threatens to engulf everything in its path with sand. Centuries pass in the blink of an eye. The River Nile meanders slowly north beside a cluster of pyramids, silhouetted by the already blazing sun. Yet this is not Egypt, but the forgotten pyramids of Sudan’s ancient Nubian kingdoms.The deserts of Sudan, one of Africa’s largest nations, boast 255 pyramids compared to Egypt’s 130. Like those in Egypt they were constructed centuries ago as the final resting places for the grand granite sarcophagi of the monarchs of two kingdoms, Napata and Moroe, which ruled an area encompassing southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The sarcophagus of just one king, Aspelta, weighs 15.5 tons and its lid another 4 tons.
It is at Moroe, just 60 miles north of the modern Sudanese capital of Khartoum, in what is poetically described as between the fifth and sixth cataracts of the Nile, which has the most extensive group of pyramids. Over forty mummified kings and queens were buried here covered in jewels and surrounded by regal earthly goodies. They date to between 700 and 300 BCE.Despite more than two millennia of plundering, when first explored by archaeologists in the nineteenth century they were found to still contain a multitude of treasures. From bows and arrows to glass and intricate pieces of furniture – they contained everything the royals might need in the afterlife.Today the pyramids bear the scars of a Victorian adventurer sure the structures contained gold and other precious goods, leaving many of them decapitated. However, rising between 20 and 100 feet into the expansive African skies, the pyramids remain a powerful reminder of the agelessness of human civilisation, while reconstructions demonstrate what the site must have looked like in its heyday.