We left the pyramids and the desert to return to the capital of Khartoum in time for some Nuba wrestling. Every Friday at 4pm, there is Nuba wrestling in a kind of a stadium in Bahro. The idea of this age-old tradition from the Nuba Mountains is to wrestle your opponent to the ground in the form of grappling. In Nuba wrestling, whoever’s torso touches the ground first loses. Traditionally, these men wrestle naked covered in ash but nowadays they wear shorts and t-shirts to fight. The winner parades around the crowd and the locals “tip” them by sticking money to their foreheads.
Khartoum is actually made up of 3 cities: Khartoum, Omdurman, and Bahri. In Omdurman is the largest market in Sudan said to have anything and everything you may be looking for. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the markets. The guide told us that he once had a tourist who took some photos and then got taken to a police station where they detained him for 4 hours and deleted his entire memory card. Also in Omdurman is the Khalifa House Museum which is an ethnographic museum housed in the former residence of Kalifa Andallahi ibn Muhammad and the headquarters of the administration of the Mahdi State. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations during our visit. Across from the Khalifa House Museum is Mahdi’s Tomb. Muhammad Ahmad was a Nubian religious leader who was proclaimed the Mahdi by his disciples in 1881. Mahdi literally means “the guided one” in Islam and is believed to appear before Judgement Day and rid the world of evil. He was one of the most influential and controversial Muslim figures who was an ardent nationalist and fervent adversary of all things foreign especially western. He is still honored today in Sudan as the national hero. The original shrine of Mahdi was constructed after his death in 1885 but was destroyed on British General Kitchener’s orders and Mahdi’s corpse was said to be dumped into the Nile. The mausoleum we see now was built in the mid-20th century after the British withdrew from Sudan. The central dome of the mausoleum looks like a silver rocket or bullet based supposedly based on traditional African style of architecture.
The National Museum of Sudan houses the largest and most substantial collection of Nubian artefacts. Displays in this two-storey museum show relics from the Paleolithic era, the Kerma and Kush Kingdoms as well as frescoes from Christian Nubia. Outside in the garden are remains of temples rescued after the flooding of Lake Nasser: the Temple of Buhen, the Temple of Semna, and the Temple of Kumma. Buhen is known for its large fortress constructed around the time of Senusret III in 1860 BC. The fortress is now submerged under Lake Nasser with the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1964. The Temple of Horus built here by Queen Hatshepsut was dismantled and reassembled in Khartoum at the National Museum of Sudan before the flooding of Lake Nasser. Also saved from being submerged under Lake Nasser are the Temple of Semna and the Temple of Kumma. These temples were both located in fortresses in the Semna gorge at the narrowest part of the Nile valley in the very south of ancient Egypt. The Temple of Semna was built within the Fortress of Semna by Tuthmosis III and was dedicated to the Nubian god Dedwen, the god of incense and protector of deceased Nubian rulers. The Temple of Kumma was built between 1473 and 1470 BC within the Fortress of Kumma and dedicated to Khnum, the god of fertility who was said to have created humankind from clay on his potter’s wheel. The Fortress of Kumma stood on the opposite bank from the Fortress of Semna and together they maintained control of movement up and down the Nile around the Second Cataract.
In the blink of an eye, my trip to Sudan was coming to an end. I really didn’t know what to expect nor had I any expectations before coming here to Sudan. It turned out to be one of the most amazing journeys ever. I especially enjoyed briefly assuming the character of Indiana Jones in this remote land rarely frequented by tourists. I have not heard about these Black Pharaohs and their pyramids until my recent trip to Egypt which peaked my interest. The trip was rough but well worth it especially with Sudan being my 90th country visited. It will always hold a special place in my memories. Given the current political turmoil and civil unrest in Sudan, I hope these friendly people will find the strength to persevere and that the country will find peace soon and emerge a better place.
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