The ancient city of Meroë is located on the east bank of the Nile River, northeast of Khartoum, Sudan. It was a wealthy metropolis in the Kingdom of Kush for several centuries. Meroë was the residence of kings between 592 B.C and 350 A.D. The site contains the ruins of more than 200 pyramids, known as Nubian pyramids because of their size and proportions.
Meroë was the foundation of a kingdom whose wealth came from a strong iron industry as well as international trade with India and China. Iron was one of the most important metals at that time, and Meroë’s ironworkers were among the best in the world. Additionally, Meroë exported jewelry, pottery and textiles to its trade partners. In addition to being a political capital, Meroë was also an important religious center, as can be seen by the great number of temples and pyramids at the site.
In 1821 Frederic Cailliaud was the first to bring knowledge of Meroë to the Europeans when he published illustrations of the ruins. Karl Lepsius examined the ruins more carefully in 1844, and he delivered sketches, plans and actual antiquities to Berlin. Excavation and restoration of the ruins continue to the present day.
There is much for the traveler to see when visiting Meroë in Sudan. There are close to 200 pyramids in the ancient burial site of the Merotic Kingdom, where the kings are laid to rest. These pyramids are much smaller than the Egyptian pyramids, but their number makes them equally impressive. They were constructed from blocks of sandstone and were steeper than the Egyptian pyramids. Treasure hunters destroyed many of the Meroë pyramids in the 19th century.
Some of the funerary chapels and pylon walls are home to intricate original carvings. Although a strong Egyptian influence is evident in these sculptures, there is also a Meroitic influence, particularly in the clothing and the appearance of the kings and queens in the sculptures. The best reliefs were dismantled in 1905 and divided by the British Museum and the museum in Khartoum. In 1910, John Garstang started excavating mounds found in the town. Through his efforts, the ruins of a palace and several temples were unearthed.
Saving and protecting the pyramids and the other monuments that are a part of the site is the first step in developing sustainable tourism at Meroë. Those visiting this site will not be disappointed. A walk among the many pyramids and other monuments that have been uncovered allows the traveler to step into a time that few will ever have the opportunity to experience.