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Sudan: Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
The small, steep pyramids rising up from the desert hills of northern Sudan resemble those in neighboring Egypt, but unlike the famed pyramids of Giza, the Sudanese site is largely deserted.

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Members of the Sudanese security forces guard the historic Meroe pyramids in al-Bagrawiya, 
200 kilometers north of Khartoum, Sudan. The pyramids at Meroe are deserted despite 
being a UNESCO World Heritage site like those at Giza in Egypt 
[Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Tour guides wait for tourists to offer them camel rides at the historic Meroe pyramids in
 al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north of Khartoum, Sudan. The pyramids at Meroe are 
deserted despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site like those at Giza in Egypt 
[Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

The pyramids at Meroe, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Sudan's capital, Khartoum, are rarely visited despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site like those in Egypt. Sanctions against the government of longtime President Omar al-Bashir over Sudan's long-running internal conflicts limit its access to foreign aid and donations, while also hampering tourism.

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
A general view of the historic Meroe pyramids site, in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers 
north of Khartoum, Sudan. The steep, small pyramids rise over the desert hills, 
a stunning reminder of the ancient Nubian kingdom that once ruled Egypt 
and ones not nearly as often visited those of its neighbor
 [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
A view of the historic Meroe pyramids in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north 
of Khartoum, Sudan. The site once served as the principle residence of the rulers 
of the Kush kingdom, known as the Black Pharaohs. Their pyramids, ranging 
from 6-meters to 30-meters tall, are some 4,600 years old 
[Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

The site, known as the Island of Meroe because an ancient, long-dried river ran around it, once served as the principle residence of the rulers of the Kush kingdom, known as the Black Pharaohs. Their pyramids, ranging from 6 meters (20 feet) to 30 meters (100 feet) tall, were built between 720 and 300 B.C. The entrances usually face east to greet the rising sun.

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Hieroglyphics are pictured inside a room at the historic Meroe pyramids, a sign
 of the influence of ancient Egyptian civilization on the Sudanese Meroite kingdom,
 in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north of Khartoum, Sudan. The pyramids
 bear decorative elements from the cultures of Pharaonic Egypt, Greece 
and Rome, according to UNESCO, making them priceless relics
 [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Local tourists visit the Meroe pyramids in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north of Khartoum, 
Sudan. Sudan’s tourism industry has been devastated by a series of economic
 sanctions imposed over the country’s civil war and the conflict in Darfur 
[Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

The pyramids bear decorative elements inspired by Pharaonic Egypt, Greece and Rome, according to UNESCO, making them priceless relics. However, overeager archaeologists in the 19th century tore off the golden tips of some pyramids and reduced some to rubble, said Abdel-Rahman Omar, the head of the National Museum of Sudan in Khartoum.

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Sudanese security guards walk next to one of the Meroe pyramids, in al-Bagrawiya, 
200 kilometers north of Khartoum, Sudan. The site once served as the principle
 residence of the rulers of the Kush kingdom, known as the Black Pharaohs. 
Their pyramids, ranging from 6-meters to 30-meters tall, are some 
4,600 years old [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
Names of visitors are seen carved into the stones of one of the Meroe pyramids, in 
al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north of Khartoum, Sudan. The pyramids at Meroe
 are deserted despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site like those
 at Giza in Egypt [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

On a recent day, a few tourists and white camels roamed the site, watched by a handful of security guards. Sudan's tourism industry has been devastated by economic sanctions imposed over the conflicts in Darfur and other regions. Al-Bashir's government, which came to power following a bloodless Islamist coup in 1989, has struggled to care for its antiquities.

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
A view of the historic Meroe pyramids in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers north of 
Khartoum, Sudan. The steep, small pyramids rise over the desert hills, a stunning
 reminder of the ancient Nubian kingdom that once ruled Egypt and ones not 
nearly as visited as those of its neighbor [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Sudan's pyramids, nearly as grand as Egypt's, go unvisited
A Sudanese tour guide and a member of the security forces observes a temple at the 
Meroe pyramids site, in al-Bagrawiya, 200 kilometers  north of Khartoum, Sudan. 
The pyramids at Meroe are deserted despite being a UNESCO World Heritage
 site like those at Giza in Egypt [Credit: AP/Mosa'ab Elshamy]

Qatar has pledged $135 million to renovate and support Sudan's antiquities in the last few years. But Omar said Sudan still receives just 15,000 tourists per year.

Author: Maggie Michael | Source: The Associated Press [April 26, 2015]