Sudan Hopes Pyramids Will Bring Visitors, Money
Tania Monteiro and her husband were almost alone as they visited Sudan's pyramids, ancient structures little known to the world.
"People are really, really nice, always very welcoming," Monteiro said. She was on a visit to Meroe, a city on the east side of the Nile River about 200 kilometers to the northeast of the capital Khartoum.
Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt, but they are smaller. Only about 700,000 people visited them in 2018 compared to the 10 million who visited Egypt's famous pyramids.
Sudan remains a difficult place for tourists to visit. Problems have included conflicts and crises under the former leader, Omar al-Bashir. The process of getting a visa is not easy. And, the lack of roads and hotels outside of Khartoum have made Sudan an unlikely place to go.
Bashir, however, lost power in April. The new government is easing visa rules to bring in visitors to places such as the Royal Pyramids of Meroe.
The Nubian Kush dynasty that ruled in the area 2,500 years ago buried members of their royal family in the pyramids.
Near Meroe's pyramids sit several temples with ancient drawings of animals and the ancient city of Naga. There are more pyramids to the north at Jebel Barka.
The new government has already started easing the visa system. They have removed the requirement for a permit to travel outside of Khartoum, said Graham Abdel-Qadir. He is the undersecretary of the ministry of information, culture and tourism.
The number of visitors is expected be higher than 900,000 next year and might reach up to 1.2 million in 2021, he said.
Sudan needs income from tourism after many years of isolation and hyperinflation.
Qatar has given $135 million in aid, and Germany has provided tourism training for the Sudanese at Meroe. There is a visitor's center that explains the history of Sudan and the pyramids. There are also walking trails.
For the first time, visitors can enter the pyramids. They also may soon be able to visit the rooms where the dead are buried. Several other pyramids will be restored after years of not being cared for.
Sudanese tourists also are coming.
"We had three buses (of Sudanese) yesterday," said Mahmoud Suleiman, who is in charge of the area.
I'm Susan Shand.