Waking up to the sunrise over the pyramids of Meroe in Sudan is one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in all my travels to date. Unzipping the tent at the crack of dawn, and walking out across the rippled red desert, we perched atop a sand dune and watched in awe as the pyramid faces gradually changed colour as the sun began to peak over the horizon.
Climbing to the top of a sand dune to watch the sun rise over the pyramids.
The Pyramids of Meroe at sunrise.
The Pyramids of Meroe are a collection of around 200 Nubian pyramids built more than 2000 years ago, which - although less impressive in size than the pyramids found in neighbouring Egypt - are nonetheless the largest collection of Nubian pyramids in the world. Nestled in the red desert about 100km north of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, the pyramids, a UNESCO world heritage site, can be visited in an overnight trip from the capital. The adventure to the pyramids can be combined with a half day trip to a collection of ancient tombs of rulers of the once prosperous Nubian Kingdom, which thrived along the banks of the Nile over 900 years ago. This is a great way to get a more contemporary glimpse of the unforgiving life of Sudanese nomads, who eke out an existence on the land in the middle of nowhere.
Lunch under a tree near the site of a collection of ancient tombs of Nubian rulers, included as part of the tour to the pyramids from Khartoum.
A guide takes a break from the searing desert sun in an ancient tomb, located between Khartoum and Meroe.
Although the ‘most touristy site’ in Sudan, upon arriving at the pyramids you’ll be hard pressed not to have the place to yourself, creating an otherworldly feeling as you wander barefoot in the hot sand around the majestic, undiscovered structures. Timing your arrival so you have the early evening there, as well as a sunrise, means you can experience the pyramids in two totally different lights (personally I thought the sunrise was the real winner). You can choose to wander around by foot, or ride from the nearby tented camp on a camel. Some of the pyramids can be visited up close, where you will discover an impressive collection of ancient hieroglyphics carved into the walls.
Camels can be hired to take you from the tented camp and few kilometres away from the pyramids.
The Meroe Tented Camp is the only place to stay anywhere near the pyramids, offering a large central reception and restaurant with a thatched roof and accommodation in glamping style tents with twin beds. The silence of the desert at night time is rather eerie, save for the intermittent bleating of a lone goat foraging for food. And the sky, oh it will be filled with the most brilliant stars you have seen in a very, very long time.
Walking back to the Meroe Tented Camp after watching the sunrise over the pyramids.
A room at the Italian run tented camp of Meroe.
Khartoum itself is worth spending a day or two: plan on seeing a ‘whirling dervish’ (pictures below), spend a night in the Corinthia Hotel built by the Gaddafi government, and take a boat ride down river to see the meeting point of the Blue and White Nile.
The trip must be organized through a local tour company; self-travel to the pyramids is not advised due to safety concerns.
Sudanese visas must be obtained from a consulate/Embassy in advance, you’ll likely need sponsorship from a tour company in Khartoum
Tours to Meroe must be organized through a local company, see Trip Advisor for options
Sudan is a dry country, carrying alcohol as a foreigner is prohibited.
A whirling dervish, a traditional religious dance, taking place in Khartoum.