Naqa and Mussawarrat are the two archaeological sights closest to Khartoum, but they only ones that require your own vehicle, ideally a four-wheel drive. We were so lucky, Dominique an widely travelled English guy we befriended in our hotel in Khartoum just took us along. Early in the morning we headed north towards Atbara, stopping in the outskirts of Khartoum to buy fresh bread, sip tea and watch the city come to life.
After 2,5 hours on the wide tar road, we turned off onto a sand track. From there it was another 45 minutes to Naqa. There were zillions of tracks and we were so happy we were able to join Ross. He had booked the two day tour at the Acropole Hotel for unbelievable amount of 600 US. Just to give you an idea, a non-English speaking driver earns US 76 a month. So we chipped in, got a ride to Naqa and Mussawarrat, but asked to dropped off at the village of Shendi, while Dominique continued to the Pyramids of Meroe.
Naqa was amazing, a small sight with basically two highlights: The Temple of Amun (1st century AD), with a short alley of rams leading up to it. The table-like blackish mountain in the distance is in line with the doors of the temple, an awesome sight. A local showed up and gave an excited talk about the history of the place. Unfortunately, he was extremely hard to understand.
A short stroll away is the Lion Temple. While walking there we passed a group of nomads who were getting water from a very very deep well using a simply technique: a donkey is run down a small sandy hill pulling a long rope to get the huge leather bag of water from 86m deep in the ground. Again, and again, and again.
Watching this spectacle, the men and children working so close to the hole was nerve-wrecking, I was so worried that one of them might slip on the wet soil and disappear, falling to its death. On the other hand it seemed that every grip, every move could have been done blindfolded, one of them was actually blind.
To us, ignorant of Kushite art, the Lion Temple seemed like the perfect classic Egyptian architecture, which it is not as were we told.
Musswarrat is a 30-minute drive away from Naqa, this complex covers a larger area than Naqa, called the Great Enclosure. It is mainly a ramble of walls and columns that might have fallen down thousands of years ago, lots of relief work can still be admired.
Also here the most impressive building is a Lion Temple, built by a king in 230BC and reconstructed by German archaeologists.
Unfortunately we arrived around noon and the heat made us rush through. At each sight we paid like 3 times the regular entry fee, but at that time we did not know.