When I arrived in Khartoum last Tuesday, there were still some things that reminded that Christmas holidays had just passed, especially for those places that celebrate Christmas with the Old Calendar dates. Sudan’s Coptic community makes Khartoum one of these places. All friends and colleagues that I would come across in Sudan these days, I would see them for the first time in 2013, so, I would naturally wish them “Happy New Year” – “Kulu sana intu taibeen” etc. When I woke up and started my first morning last Wednesday, I felt more at home seeing a Christmas tree still blinking its lights over the atrium of the two oldest blocks of flats in downtown Khartoum, built in the 1950s by the Greek architect Slavos and still administered by two Greek families. I have lived there some of the most important moments of my life in Khartoum and beyond…

xmas at slavos atrium

I did not stay that long in the capital. I had a series of contacts regarding the next stages of The Atbara Junction Programme and with the weekend ahead of me, I had decided to visit three localities of major interest for Sudan Archaeology, where I would have the chance to meet some good friends and colleagues doing their fieldwork. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to find someone to rent a car that one can drive alone – and perhaps it is even not wise, since the police- and other state-controls of various forms, often incomprehensible to the inexperienced traveler, may hinder the progress of eating up the hundreds of kilometers separating one end of the Middle Nile from the other. But fortunately, I had an excellent driver with me, who kept also reminding me of various adventures of the Greek communities of Sudan, since he has worked over many years with the various companies that Greeks owned or worked for in the field of hunting tours. Sukran ya Jamal!

Jamal & Monica

The first stop was at Meroe, where I stayed at Pawel Wolf’s house at Hamadab. Pawel is working this month at the Meroitic capital, testing the results of the excavations by Garstang, identifying the building sequence of the structures between the enclosure wall and the two major monuments of the most Hellenistic part of Meroe, namely the so-called “Roman Baths” and the so-called “Exedra”, and tracing the system of water provision around this central official part of the city.

Pawel @ Exedra

The whole project is directed by Simone Wolf and it is conducted under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute. The GAI has also given its support to the project at Hamadab directed by Pawel himself. Pawel will have to stay in the area until the end of March and it is certain that the results will once again add important pieces to the puzzle creating our image of the Meroitic past.

From the Meroitic heartlands, Jamal and myself, crossed the Bayuda on the asphalt road that has made one of the most fascinating itineraries in Northern Sudan to a journey of no more than 3 hours. Our destination was Ghazali. The site of the first monastery identified in Upper Nubia by the excavations of Shinnie and Chittick in the early 1950s had remained in silence since then, but since last year, Artur Obluski has started moving the sands that covered the monastery in its modern sleep of half a century.

artur @ ghazali

His team’s works have already produced unbelievable results and we are all looking forward to hearing the details of discoveries that seem to have implications both for the history of monasticism in Nubia and the political history of the Christian kingdoms of the Middle Nile.

The Polish team excavating at Ghazali stay at Karima. This modern town east of Gebel Barkal has seen rapid development that goes in hand with increased archaeological activity in the surrounding sites. These days another team, directed by Geoff Emberling, is excavating a forgotten temple at the renown cemetery of the early Kushite kings at Kuru (for more details about Geoff’s project, see HERE).

Geoff @ Kuru

It was an overwhelming sight to see the works at that site, and it went in pair with the image of the Holy Mountain of ancient Sudan, saluting us as we left the Nile to cross the Eastern Desert in the direction of the New Kingdom frontiers between Egypt and Kush…

barkal paths

Again, the asphalt road has made the trip across these previously so dangerous tracks a very easy task. By early afternoon we were in Nubia, at Tumbus, the site where the last years, professor Stuart Tyson Smith is digging one of the most brilliant amalgams of the coexistence of Egyptians and Sudanese in the Late Bronze Age Middle Nile. The new Kingdom cemetery has been giving incredible treasures, but the riddle that was remaining open was the location of the settlement of the site. Well, they only had to dig outside their dighouse and the first walls appeared! The dig is overseen by Bruce Williams and Mohamed Farouq Abdelrahman, two more cherished friends and colleagues.

old friends meet

It was such a pleasure meeting them again, and especially Mohamed Farouq whom I had not seen for five years! The stories to be told were enough to keep us awake almost until dawn… Alhamdulillah, we did manage to sleep a couple of hours before the work resumed and the nimitis came out dancing around our faces as we tried to combine the pleasure of the archaeological discoveries with the sight of a fantastic sunrise…

sunrise @ tumbus

I had come less than two hours of a drive before Sai Island. But the duties in Khartoum could not allow me the pleasure of driving further north. We took the road of the return, enjoying the site of camel caravans traveling through the Western Desert to the markets of Egypt.

camels @ the western desert

The reason that I had to wake up today in Khartoum is that a new cooperation was starting between the University of Bergen and the Photo Archive of the Sudan National Library. It was a very interesting experience to get involved with this project and to see the richness of this photographic material.

While waiting for the next step in this work tomorrow, it is worthwhile remembering that exactly five years ago, a concert of two musicians from Norway was taking place at Ergamenis, the Greek Cultural Center in Khartoum (for a sample of the repertorium click HERE and wait for the opening music theme of the other blog of the GNM): Joachim Kwetzinsky on the piano and the voice of Camilla Ediassen joined the North and the South and became one of the key evenings in the development of the Medieval Sai Project too, since it was one of the first days that I could proudly hold Henriette hand in hand, claiming our wish to share our lives in a world marked by a straight line between Bergen, Athens, Sai, and Khartoum; the same more or less upon which I will travel tomorrow returning back home…

This entry was posted in archaeology, Greeks of Sudan, Nubia and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.