Little by little, the deserts of northern Sudan slowly reveal the secrets they have held for 2,000 years and more. With wheelbarrows, pulleys and shovels, sweating labourers have unearthed the remains of pyramids, temples and other ancient monuments. But much of the country’s rich archaeological heritage still remains hidden.
An unprecedented $135 million project, funded by the Gulf state of Qatar aims to change that.
"Archaeologists had a dream that this site would attract more interest," says Abbas Zarook at the Napatan ruins of El-Kurru, about 300 kilometres northwest of the capital Khartoum. He heads a Sudanese-American mission excavating the site.
Zarook said the Qatari funding, a five-year project announced in March, will support further discoveries at El-Kurru, and elsewhere. "Without the Qatari donation, no one knows how long this knowledge would have remained hidden," he says.
El-Kurru and more than two dozen other archaeological projects, spread over hundreds of kilometres along the Nile Valley, will benefit from the support, officials say. It will benefit projects by several foreign and Sudanese teams in northern Sudan, where the first archaeological digs took place only about 100 years ago. That was much later than in Greece or Egypt, whose pyramids are grander and much better known.