Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Naga Temple

On Sunday, Grant and I decided to ride into the desert to visit temple ruins I'd read about. 

We left at 6h15 and by the time we passed this mosque above the sun was just in the right place for me to get a good image (albeit through the vehicle window)

On the road again... (I could get used to this!)

Being Sunday, the first day of the week,  the oncoming traffic - taxis and busses - was loaded with passengers going into Khartoum to work. We also saw school children of all ages standing on the side of the highway waiting for their transport. However, when we passed this little group consisting of two men, a woman and a young child sitting on the side of the road almost 100kms from the city, we wondered what they were waiting for or where they were going to.

We had coffee and choc-chip cookies in the same place on  the side of the road where we'd  had lunch the week before

As we left the highway and drove into the desert, we came across another vehicle. We pulled up beside the pick-up , I wound my window down and the driver of the other vehicle did the same. As I posted yesterday, these were two Australian ladies and an Ethiopian man who are teaches here in Khartoum. We spent the rest of the day with them catching up on Western company 

 Robyn, the older of the two ladies has been in Khartoum for five years. Getenet, an Ethiopian refugee has been here for fifteen. They were gong to show Izzy, their newly-arrived collegue sites for camping with the school children. They were on their way to the temples first so we rode together across the desert.  There is something so peaceful about the vastness of a desert even though we were literally bouncing along the tracks

Apedemak Temple at Naga in the Musawwarat area
 30kms/19 miles from the highway we arrived at the Apedemak Temple at Naga. It's amazing what an awesome feeling comes over you when you wander through the old and historical ruins. Just these huge structures in the middle of the desert makes you think of royalty holding court here centuries ago.
Lion type statues line the entrance to the Apede-mak Temple at Naga

A vast religious complex stretching over 5 hectares, Musawwarat's temples were built in the heart of the Sudanese steppe and were once surrounded by courts and gardens.

Naga is located at the side of a wadi, more than 30 km from the Nile. It is a Meroitic town that boasts a series of exceptional temples.

The major god of the region of Meroe was a divinity of local origin, called Apede-mak. He was perhaps a lion form of Amun and was often identified with the moon. He normally took the form of a powerful lion-headed man, dressed in armor. He usually appeared in the reliefs of his temple in a warlike aspect, standing or seated on a throne or on an elephant, grasping prisoners and weapons of war, or holding elephants and lions on leashes. Magnificent temples in his honor were built at every major site in the Butana.

I wonder, was the temple built using fung shui principles?

Close-up detail of the inner murals on the temple of Apedemak Temple

Getenet poses for me leaning on the engraved(sacrificial?) block  while Grant and Robyn discuss some strange caterpillars on the ground

As with the pyramids of Meroe, there were no tourists overcrowding the site. Here our three new friends admire the temple structures with Grant while I.. take photos!  (left to right: Robyn, Getenet and Grant with Izzy just visible at the end of the temple)
Close up of the pillars in front of the temple

The finest surviving examples being those at Naga and Musawwarat. The Apedemak Temple at Naga is adorned with reliefs depicting the imposing figures of its builders, King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore doing homage to the lion god. (This royal pair, who lived at about the time of Christ, seem to have presided over a Meroitic "Golden Age," as the remains of numerous buildings bear their names.) In the decorative scheme of this temple the figure of the queen appears just as prominently as that of her husband, providing a clear indication of the unusual status accorded women in the Meroitic monarchy. Judging by the many large pyramids of queens and the remains of buildings bearing their names exclusively, Meroe after the third century BC seems to have been ruled by many queens in their own right. Classical writers were so impressed with this fact that they often assumed that Meroe was ruled only by women, who, they thought always bore the name "Candace." This name, the origin of our modern female name, was in fact a Meroitic queenly title, which may have meant "Queen regent".

I couldn't resist an artistic angle of the temple walls with a paperbark thorn up ahead
 Just before I posed for this photo, I placed my camera bag behind the pillar which my hand is resting on. (often I have beautiful photos of people/motorbikes/dinner tables and the camera bag and/or lense cap is lying glaringly in the foreground) Later as we drove back to the highway, I realised I didn't have my camera bag in the car. We racked our brains and then I remembered leaving it here. We drove back to fetch it. 

A Sudanese boy was waiting outside the fenced off enclosure. He told me his donkey's name was Salaam and his name was Rachide. Ever such a polite young man
One last view of the temple from a different angle

The ground around around the temple in the second ruins is cracked clay. A medieval touch!
On the way to the othe temple ruins a few hundred meters from the above temple.  we passed a copse of thorn trees. The birdsong emanating from this forest was almost deafening. So I wandered in and spotted a LIFER, a Sudan Golden Sparrow. There were flocks of these birds but we've not seen them in Khartoum so this was a good bird sighting for us
The temple ruins about 500m from the temple of Apedemak 

At this point blogger is giving me trouble uploading the photos of these temple ruins. Please read next post which is a continuation of this one.

Text source: Internet.
Photos: Mine own!


  1. Such an amazing place to see in the desert and the details are still so good.

    That sparrow is so brilliant.

  2. Wow ! and this is still undescovered by the tourist industry ! It's terrific when you realize what culture they already had thousands of years ago, while in the European area we were still running around wrapped in fur ?
    Now we are on the "civilized" side of the world and there the time stood still.
    What an interesting discovery !

  3. What a great history lesson. It is amazing the culture they had way back then. It must have felt great to be there and without hoards of tourists. Great shots too.

  4. Thanks for taking me along on this adventure. It must be amazing to discover places where you're the only tourist! Seems like you've made some nice expat friends! Enjoy the week.

  5. Hi Jo,fantastic photos and posts, history made painless!It is amazing to think they have stood there for thousands of years braving desert winds and storms. I wonder is the relief depicting a beheading the entrance to a prison or place of execution!It is nice to make friends when touring to share discoveries with

  6. Fascinating! I've read that the desert has been slowly expanding southward over the past 4,000 years. I wonder if it was greener in this are at the time it was inhabited (2000+ years ago). It was interesting to see what looked like an orchard in one of the shots.

  7. It's fascinating to see these ruins in the middle of the desert. Great photos. The big blocks of stone and the etched art are poignant reminders of the rise and fall of civilizations.
    Interesting that you met some fellow travelers out there.


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