This is part 2 of the story of my journey to the Pyramids of Sudan. In Part 1, I visited the Jebel Barkal pyamids and the Nuri Pyramids. For part one click here.
I was back in the capital Khartoum and I had planned with Musab, my driver and now friend, to go to the Bejrawiya pyramids the day after. The Bejrawiya is the arabic name of the pyramid site, that Google called Meroe. That day I was visiting the national museum in Khartoum and checking out some markets. I also had to call the airport to check up on the missing bag.
Going to the museum allowed me to see some of the treasures and mummies found inside the tombs I had just visited in Barkal and Nuri
Upon arrival to Khartoum I did not receive my luggage so I of course reported it and convinced the lady working there to give me her personal Whatsapp in order to contact her, as I did not have a Sudanese phone.
The luggage had arrived and was stored in the airport, but the problem was, that it was not possible to pick it up until the next day at 8 AM. Because it was also my last day in Sudan, it was my last chance to pick it up.
Airport first and then we are off to the Pyramids
It ruined my plans a little, because I was intending to go to Bejrawiya early morning to be able to make it back in time for the Mawlid celebrations that was going to happen in Omdurman later that day.
At 7:50 I was with Musab at the airport asking for my luggage back. As expected everything took lots of time to sort out, but 45 minutes later we were heading towards Bejrawiya.
The first bribe
On the way there are many checkpoints awaiting you. As soon as they see me they of course ask for identification. It should not be a problem, but they keep complicating it by saying we need some permit or that the car needs to be searched. Musab could feel the bribe vibe and gave a handshake with some money between his fingers. We were off again.
The distance to the Pyramids were 230 km, but we havent even completed 50 km before we got pulled over again.
Another bribe or a speed ticket?
This time a police officer pulled us over for a speed ticket. He wanted 200 sudanese pounds for exceeding the speed limit. That is the equivalent to 1 dollar at that time. Musab got off and talked to him for few minutes and when he came back, he told me that he negotiated the price down to 100 pounds. I could not help myself laughing, but it was great for him.
Third bribe, Musab got cocky
So third time we were stopped on our way there, and this time the officer wanted to know if we had a tourism permit to go see the pyramids. If you have read part one of the story, this was a huge issue when we went to Jabal Barkal.
This time Musab was getting confident and he said with conviction:
“No we don’t need a permit, our honored leader has announced it is open for everybody now”
To put this in context, this happened just few weeks before the uprising of the Sudanese people, that resulted a successful (and still ongoing) revolution, where they got rid of their dictator Omar El-Bashir, who had been ruling the country for 30 years. It was El-Bashir Musab was refering to here.
I honestly was surprised by his courage, and the officer was obviously confused as well. After a little pause, the officer said: “Yes yes, I know he did, but if there is a permit we still like to see it.”
Eventually he let us continue.
From 40 dollars to a fraction of a dollar
So we finally made it to the Bejrawiya, or Meroe, as it was signed in English. We parked by the entrance as the only car and only guests there. There were few kids trying to sell us souvenirs already and a small entrance office.
I was wearing a T-shirt saying “TOKYO” and my fancy sunglasses. I walk in and greet the lady at the counter. She looks at me for 3 seconds and says in English:
I take my sunglasses off to expose my dark Arabic eyes and smile to her. I answer her in perfect Arabic: “What would you take from a local?”
I don’t know if she is disappointed in my ethnicity, but she says:
“Fine, of course as long as you are Arabic, we will treat you like one of our own. 300 (Sudanese) pounds please”
I say: “Really? Do you take 300 from Sudanese?”
Her: “Okay, just 50”
And that is how it is done!
The sight of these pyramids though are like nothing I have ever seen. It is not just 3-5 pyramids on a row like the Pyramids of Giza or the Pyramids of Jabal Barkal. No.. here is tens of pyramids all very close together. How many Pyramids where there at the Meroe site? Somewhere around 60-70 pyramids, in addition tens of ruins that may have been pyramids at some point.
Where else can you touch two ancient pyramids at the same time? The answer is: In the Sudan only!
The craziest car ride ends up with an accident
The way back was very hectic. We were trying to get back in time for the Mawlid celebration in Omdurman in Khartum, but it looked like we were gonna be late. Musab was driving fast on this two-sided bumpy road. When he slowed down, others would overtake him, and one van did smash into Musab’s side mirror.
Of course this is the Sudan, so you do not stop op and exchange ensurance information, the van driver slowed down to let Musab overtake him again and while he did that he put his hands out the window and apologized.
But the craziness did not stop there. A huge truck was fallen sideways on the road and that lead to a massive line of cars. So do we wait in line, or do we drive on the opposite side of the road?
You guessed right, we drove on the opposite side of what is supposed to be “the highway”. Now.. it is a one lane each way road. So of course cars came at us, and Musab was forced down the sandy sideway. There were few Jeeps following Musab’s example but in general this was not good for the car.
The good news is though, that we made it to experience the end of the Mawlid celemony which was so amazing! But that is for another post!