Today we wake up and drive to the village of Tombos via the granite boulders of the Third Cataract of the Nile. Cataracts are shallow areas where there are many boulders jutting out of the river bed with white water rapids in areas. They hinder navigation of the Nile for thousands of years and there are six main cataracts where sail boats could not pass and had to be dragged by teams of men on the shores. I can imagine how these rocky obstacles used to make sailing the Nile extremely difficult for the ancient Egyptians. Only the First Cataract is located in Egypt in Aswan, now the location of the Aswan Low Dam. The other five cataracts are in Sudan with the Second Cataract now submerged under Lake Nasser and the Fourth Cataract submerged under the reservoir of the Merowe Dam.
We make a quick stop at Sabu near the downstream end of the Third Cataract to see some petroglyphs drawn on the sandstone cliffs some dating back more than 6,000 years. This cluster has more than 1,600 rock drawings depicting wild as well as domestic animals, humans, and boats. The wild animals depicted such as lions, hippopotamus, elephants, antelopes etc are now extinct in the area.
Tombos was the location of black granite quarries which were important for construction during the Pharaonic era. There is the remains of a huge statue of King Taharqa, one of the black pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty of Egypt, lying here abandoned for over 2700 years. There is also a small stele here with Egyptian inscriptions dated to the time of Thutmose I attesting his conquests into Nubia.
From Tombos, we continue to Kerma which was the capital of the ancient Kerma Kingdom that existed between 2500 BC and 1500 BC and was considered the first Nubian kingdom. Kerma is one of the oldest inhabited towns in Africa. Around 1500 BC, it was conquered by Egyptian pharaoh Thutmos III thus ending this Nubian kingdom. One of the characteristics of Kerma civilization was the building of the deffufa which is a type of mud brick temple and is the oldest and largest mud-brick building in Africa. The western deffufa is 18 meters high and abut 1,400 square meters in size with many passageways and chambers spread over 3 floors. Archaeologists have yet to determine the exact use of the building but most speculate it was used for religious purposes. From the top of the deffufa are views of the reconstructed grids of how the city used to look like. In the archaeological site is a fascinating museum created by the Swiss archaeological mission after the discovery of seven granite statues, some 10 feet high, of the Black Pharaohs in 2003. These statues were deliberately broken to destroy the “power” of the pharaohs and found buried in a ditch but still in excellent conditions. They were of the Black Pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty: Taharqa, Tantamani, Senkamanisken, Anlamani, and Aspelta.
From Kerma and Karima area, we head east towards Meroe through the Bayuda Desert. Next post will be on the people we met in the desert as well as in Meroe. Stay tuned!
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