Visiting the medieval Old Dongola city
The remains of the medieval town of Dongola lie on the east bank of the Nile river. The city prospered between the 7th to the 14th century as the capital of the Christian Kingdom of Makuria and crucial starting point for caravans heading west towards Darfur and Kordofan regions. It was founded around the fifth century as a fortress, but soon afterwards a city developed in the surrounding area.
With the advent of Christianity, Dongola became the capital of the kingdom of Makuria, and numerous churches, monasteries, cathedrals and houses were built there. The city reached the period of its most significant development in the 10th century, and during the 13th and 14th centuries, it fell into decline. In 1317, the Muslim King Abdallah Bershambu was placed on the Throne of Dongola marking the end of the Christian rulers. Unfortunately, since the collapse of the Kingdom of Makuria, houses and churches have been plundered for building materials.
The most prominent and well preserved surviving building of the site is the so-called Throne Hall, a two-storey edifice with thick walls sit on a hill overlooking the east bank of the Nile. Not far from the Throne Hall is the Church of the Granite Columns, used to be a cathedral and the seat of the Dongola bishops. With the advent of Islam in 1317, the Throne Hall was converted into a mosque and used until 1969. In the valley, it is possible to see the 17th-century Islamic cemetery with several Qubbas, monumental domed tombs where Muslim holy men, also called marabouts, were buried.
Need to know about Old Dongola
|The archaeological site lies on the east bank of the Nile, and it’s tough to reach with local transport. Probably you should take a bus to Al Dabbah and once there, ask a local to take you to Old Dongola (in case, it’s highly advisable to have a 4×4 vehicle). Click here to see the location.
There isn’t a fixed entrance fee, but you need to bargain with the guardian. We paid 300 SDG per person. It’s also quite challenging to find the guardian itself; therefore, so as in all the sites, go on with your visit and he’ll find you. Anyway, click here to see the location of the building where to pay for the ticket.
Where to sleep and eat
The city of Dongola is 80 km away. It offers a very small range of accommodations. We slept at Tarhaqa Tourism resort (70 USD a double room – +249 12 320 4766). You can also try with the Palace Hotel, Olla Hotel, Haifa Hotel or Al Muallem Hotel. In the small town centre, you’ll find some restaurants and stands selling tasty local food. Click here to find out our itinerary and read useful information about Sudan.