Saturday, 8 September 2012

Trip to Rami's village and the pyramids at Meroe

Rami very kindly arranged for all the new volunteers to stay overnight at his family’s village about 40 minutes north of Shendi.  It is very close to the pyramids at Meroe.  It was the first time any of us has been outside Khartoum.  We took a privately hired minibus and left on a very straight well maintained road.  There were several security checkpoints on the way.  We stopped for lunch in Shendi, where we had a very enjoyable fish lunch with date juice. 

When we reached the village it was already the heat of the day, so we had a rest.  The village is built of mud and looks extremely basic.  There are no obvious shops or stalls, just high mud walls with gates.  However, when we went into the house, this turned out to be deceptive.  The interior is clean and very comfortable with more than one courtyard and several rooms containing many beds (Jennifer counted 25) which are also used as seats or sofas.  There is running water which is used to fill several barrels.  There is electricity and gas.  Since 2009 the village has had satellite TV.  The women of the family are both teachers and speak some English.  Education in Sudan is compulsory and free.

After our rest, we went to see the pyramids. We were the only tourists.  There were several small stalls selling souvenirs.  There were also several camels with drivers very keen to attract customers.  I had a camel ride for the equivalent of £1 UK money.  The pyramids belonged to the Meroite kings and queens.  They are different in several ways from the Egyptian pyramids.  The pyramids are solid, with the tombs build underneath.  Most also have a small temple at the front, facing east.  They are smaller and have a much sharper slope.  The gods worshiped and the artwork, are completely Egyptian though.  Unfortunately they are in a ruinous state due to the appalling behaviour of a 19th century Italian treasure seeker called Ferlini, who dismantled many of them from the top in his search for gold.  He also took carved reliefs and the small amount of treasure he found back to Europe.
After seeing the pyramids, we drove back to the village.  Due to the Nile flooding we were unable to visit the royal city of Meroe.  Instead we saw some very happy small boys swimming in the flooded area.  Afterwards we saw a local ceremony in which young men wearing traditional white robes have to leap up and down competitively. The whole village was watching, with men on one side and women on the other.  Jennifer and I caused quite a stir among the small girls who all came to have their photos taken and ask our names.
Then we went back to the house and sat talking.  Jennifer and I were asked if we would like to have our hands and feet hennaed.  This is traditionally done for weddings.  We both agreed.  Jennifer also had her hair hennaed.  It was a very lengthy process which took up the rest of the evening, using the family’s own henna which grows in the courtyard.  The whole family were delighted.  One of the young men sang a special ‘henna’ song while I was done.  Afterwards we had a very late supper of bean stew, tammaya, pancakes and bread before going to bed.  Jennifer and Martin had a room to themselves as they are a married couple.  The rest of us had to go in different directions as men sleep in one half of the building, and women in the other.  I slept with the women in the courtyard and had my best night’s sleep so far, due to the gentle breeze.  In the morning we returned to Khartoum.  The trip made a very nice break from Khartoum.  It was lovely to see a slice of real Sudanese life.

1 comment:

  1. You missed out the part where I dropped my camera down the loo and some very friendly Sudanese guides work day and night with all kinds of implements to retrieve it for me!