$135m Qatar aid gives new start to Sudan archaeology

March 24, 2014 - 5:07:27 am

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s rich but under-developed archaeological heritage has received an unprecedented $135m in funding from Qatar, Sudanese officials said yesterday.

The money will support 29 projects, including the rehabilitation of ancient relics, construction of museums and study of the Meroitic language, said Salahaddin Mohammed Ahmed, Project Coordinator.

He said the fund will support archaeological work by several Western nations and Sudan over five years.

“This is the biggest amount of money for Sudanese antiquities in their history,” Abdurrahman Ali, head of the museums, told reporters, adding the project will lay the foundation for “archaeological tourism”.

Sudan’s remote and relatively undiscovered pyramids in north of Khartoum contrast with their grander and better-known cousins in Egypt, which occupied northern Sudan for about 500 years until roughly 1,000 BC.

Sudanese sites on the Unesco’s World Heritage List include Gebel Barkal and surrounding tombs, temples and other relics from the Napatan and Meroitic periods that followed Egyptian rule, the pyramids of Meroe and nearby sites, including Naqa and Musawwarat es Sufra. The first archaeological digs in Sudan took place about 100 years ago, much later than in Egypt or Greece.

French, Polish, German and other foreign teams are working on sites in the north.

Claude Rilly, Director of the French archaeological mission in Sedeinga, said sponsors were hard to come by in his profession. 

Qatar’s funds “will give a new start, I hope, to archaeology” in Sudan, he added.

The money will be used to help protect sites, develop small local museums and tourism booklets, restore National Museum in Khartoum, and build two presentation and conference centres at  Unesco sites, he said.

Some funds will help excavate and restore monuments, including in Sedeinga where the French team is digging about 200km from the Egyptian border.

Rilly said work had begun with Qatar’s assistance to reinforce the sandstone blocks of a temple there.

Tourists at the pyramids and other relics often have the attractions to themselves, though a few visitors have managed to leave litter behind.

The stonework of some monuments has collapsed, they are poorly guarded and there are no explanatory signs.