KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The triumph of the Kushite Queen, Kandake Amanirenas, over the invading Roman armies after five years of fierce fighting has so much inflamed the zeal of American star Keke Palmer that she chose to study the civilization of Kush.
Captivated with the valiance of Kandake Amanirenas, Keke Palmer chose the tattoo of a cluster of pyramids of the Kushite civilization on her neck with the words “Queen of Kush”.
Asked about the secret of the tattoo, Keke replied on Instagram “The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient African Nubian kingdom situated on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara," she replied. This land is part of modern-day Sudan.’’
"What I love most is its history of female rulers!!," Palmer continued. "In school, we very rarely ever learn about female rulers and never about African rulers. Amanirenas was one of the most famous queens of Kush ... because of her role leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted five years, she was able to communicate a peace treaty that favoured the Kushites’’ granting them land and an exemption from future taxation. She has been described as brave, with one eye."
Although Keke was tattooed with Sudanese pyramids since last year, her body drawing became phenomenally popular among Sudanese social media fans concurrently with the highly publicized visit of HH Sheikha Moza mother of Qatar’s ruler Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani to the area, to the chagrin of Sudan's neighbors to the north.
Princess Moza’s vist to the pyramids had inspired Gulf telecom and air travel companies to cash on the Kushite civilization via commercials. For one, the air carrier “The Emirates”, published an add saying “We carry you to Khartoum.’’ And below the add, the company published a photo of the Bajrawiyya pyramids.
Those events, and others, now draw the World’s attention to Sudan’s ancient civilization as tourist destinations where visitors can have first-hand knowledge about one of the World’s ancient heritages that remained in the shadows for centuries.
For decades now, the Western information machine had continued to stereotype Sudan as one of the most turbulent regions of the World, without any reference to the depth of the country’s ancient civilization and its artifacts.
Under the title: Pyramids by the Nile. Egypt? No, Sudan, earlier American writer and actor Andrew McCarthy had written a very interesting article about his tour of Sudan and what the country has for the World.
“No danger seeker, I’d come to Sudan with Will Jones, who, with his company, Journeys by Design, runs a guiding service to many of Africa’s top destinations. He was on an exploratory trip to Sudan, and I had come to tag along.’’
“We were intent on exploring the remote — and safe — northern region of the Nubian Desert, clustered with more pyramids than Egypt and nearly unvisited by outsiders. But more than any particular destination, I was interested in the people. I was curious to see how they lived with so much strife for so long. I wondered what effect it might have had on them.”
‘’A hot, dry wind blew as I stood under a large mahogany tree on the banks of the Blue Nile in the heart of Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. Not far off to my left, at a bend in the river, was the confluence of the Blue and White Nile that would flow like an umbilical cord through the desert north to where we were headed, then into Egypt and eventually the Mediterranean. My first impression of Khartoum was of order and a cleanliness on the streets that I hadn’t often experienced in other parts of Africa. The roads were well paved and the ubiquitous plastic bags that litter so much of the continent were nowhere in sight.’’
“Believe it or not,” Will told me as we strolled along the river, “Sudan is a real emerging destination.”
“But since South Sudan seceded in 2011, reliable tourism numbers for the two countries are hard to find. I saw only a handful of obvious outsiders during my entire stay. A report submitted to the International Council on Monuments and Sites indicated that just 6,000 tourists and visitors a year came to Meroe, the location of the pyramids.’’
“We walked past taxi drivers kneeling beside their battered cabs on small rugs, supplicating themselves in prayer. Under a bridge, dozens of low plastic tables and stools were filled with women in colorful dresses and head scarves, and men in short sleeves or white djellabas, drinking tea; many were smoking, all talking quietly. We took a seat at the informal cafe, and a small boy brought us two glasses of the oversweetened tea that was served everywhere in Sudan. In the water below, two men sculled up the river, their oars in unison, while up on the far bank an old man silently herded a dozen bony cattle.”
“This is not what I expected,” I said.
Will nodded. “Quite peaceful, isn’t it?”
“We headed over to Souk Omdurman, the city’s largest market. The narrow alleyways and covered passages swarmed with life. Old men sat beside piles of shoes and garlic and heaps of bananas. Young boys bent over sewing machines. Large cans were filled with drinking water for anyone thirsty. An old lady served us tea, heaping three tablespoons of sugar into a tiny cup. Men swatted flies away from countertops covered in meat — a typical East African market lacking only the tension of similar bazaars I had experienced in Ethiopia or Tanzania.”
“In the heat of the next morning we drove north, staying close to the Nile. With the city behind, the vista was broad and flat, broken only by scrawny acacia trees. Occasionally a lone figure atop a camel was seen in the distance. We camped out in rolling dunes. The desert was still and the night cold.”
“We drove on to Old Dongola. From the seventh to the 14th century, this was the center of the Christian kingdom of Makuria. Little remains except some stone pillars of the Coptic Christian Church, jutting up out of the sand. Large jars, scattered and chipped, lay nearby — how many hundreds, even thousands of years old were they? No one was at the site.”
“For a week, we crossed and re-crossed the Nile, camping in the desert or staying in simple lodgings in small villages.”
“In Kerma we climbed its deffufa (Nubian for “mud brick building”) dating from 1500 B.C. — also deserted. In Karima, a bustling river town, I sat with silent and serious men smoking a hookah. We ate ful, the Sudanese staple of watery bean stew. A man welcomed me into his home. In a simple concrete room I perched on the edge of a metal cot under pink-washed walls as his young daughter poured me cup after cup of sweet tea — and then coffee. I left, excited from their generosity.”
“The Sudanese had little, but offered what they had. Perhaps it was northern Sudan’s nomadic history, an understanding that everyone passing through the desert was made equal and relied on one another for survival, or maybe it was the lack of alcohol in the country and the devoutness of their religion, or an acceptance that comes from struggling for so long, but I encountered a peacefulness that surprised me and belied so much of Sudan’s bloody history.”
EVENTUALLY we circled back and came upon what will be Sudan’s primary tourist draw — if it is to have one — the pyramids of Meroe. They are far smaller than the Great Pyramids of Egypt, but the setting, the stillness and the scope of the Meroe site are what make it impressive. About 200 pyramids stand deserted amid the dunes — the tops of many of them were lopped off in 1834 by the Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini in the mistaken belief that riches were buried inside. At sunset and again at dawn I walked the deserted site.’’
“This is tourism in the foothills,” Will told me later as we watched the sun, an orange fireball, dive into the desert. “It’s an amazing opportunity. In 10 years, with the absence of control, places like this will get spoiled quickly.”
“On the way back to Khartoum, dust rose from far off the road; we drove toward it. It was then that we came upon the camel market. Camels, nearly a thousand strong, had been gathered to be bought and sold. It was here that Abdrahman approached me.
“Those ones over there,” he pointed to an unhappy looking cluster nearby, “they are from Darfur, they make the best eating, they will go to Egypt. But these,” he pointed proudly to several handsome dromedaries, “these are from Eastern Sudan, they are for racing. They bring the best price and will go to Saudi Arabia.”
Expectations and Figures:
In the Meantime Sudan’s Ministry of Tourism has indicated that the media hype that accompanied Princess Moza’s visit to Sudan had helped promote Sudan’s tourist attractions and historical relics so much that hotel occupation jumped by more than 80%. The Ministry expects Sudan to attract 100 million tourists once the ongoing construction of tourist infrastructure is complete.
“We are working hard to propagate Sudan’s vast tourist potential so that the World can recognize our civilization and our tourist capabilities,’’ said Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife Minister Mohammad Abu Zaid.
“We have a lot of programs for tourism promotion,’’ he said.
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