9/22/2011

Alone at the Pyramids


Three hours north of Khartoum, my bus pulled off onto the side of the road just long enough to let me jump off. There to the east, jutting out of the horizon, was a jagged row of ruins, pyramids half buried in a giant ridge of sand. The Nile ran a few kilometers behind to the west, hidden by a faint strip of green, while everything ahead was barren. 

I walked the kilometer towards the pyramids, unsure about whether I'd encounter anyone at all. A small guard post emerged when I neared the base of the dune. Beside it, the encroaching sand had turned a chest-high barbed wire fence into a welcome mat which I stepped over to pay my 25SDG. The guard said I could camp that night anywhere beyond the black mountain to the east of the pyramids.

I spent the afternoon alone, wandering the old Nubian ruins, no one around to stop me from climbing on top and inside of them. Many had been crudely restored in the 80s, but it was still easy enough to imagine being the first one to discover the place.

Reeling from the heat, I finally headed further east towards another fenced guard post. The first guard said I'd find water there. And Nile water I did find, still cool in a large earthen jar.

I raised my tent beside a lone acacia set between the pyramids and the guard post, then made another round at the pyramids to soak up the solitude as the sun set.

Suddenly the whole scene was crashed: a bus-load of kids were streaming across the dunes. They quickly spotted me, and along with their teachers, ran towards me as though I were the most fascinating thing around. Next there were more than a dozen warm Sudanese greetings, after which we reviewed together their three English phrases and they kindly invited me to their village. After snapping a group photo with myself at the center, they all packed up as quickly as they'd come, leaving everything eerily silent once again.

I spent the early evening drinking tea with the guards before walking through the dark to find my tent. Hyena calls kept me up late. When the sun rose I was still exhausted, but decamped in a hurry: a camel man was outside the tent waiting to join me for the walk back to the highway. Hailing a shared taxi to Atbara, I stopped for a another fuul lunch then made the long bus journey west to Karima, arriving just before sunset.






3 comments:

Shery said...

Everyone is alone these days!

Andy said...

It's true, Shereen! Even I am since Spencer's doing a clinical research study for six weeks in Salt Lake!

Joey, that first picture is my favorite. What a cool spot!

Kristen said...

I'm starting to see why you love the desert so much.