Visiting the ancient ruins of Jebel Barkal site

The holy Jebel Barkal is a great sandstone mountain rising from the sand of the desert, near the city of Karima. The Egyptian and Kushites Pharaohs believed that the mountain was the home of the God Amun. The mountain has always been sacred to the inhabitants of the place since time immemorial. Still, it was at the time of the XXV dynasty, under Rameses II, that it was able to rival, in importance, with the temples of Karnak and Thebes in Egypt. The archaeological site features at least six temples, some tombs and two sanctuaries dating back to the XXV Dynasty. 

Jebel Barkal, the Temple of Amun
Jebel Barkal, the Temple of Amun

The ruins of the Temple of Amun lie at the foot of Jebel Barkal, built around the 15th century BC by Pharaoh Thutmose III. Later Pharaos, above all Ramses II, expanded it and turned it into a significant cultural centre and Jebel Barkal became the most important centre of the New Kingdom of Kush. Unfortunately, the temple is very ruined, but the ground plan is still visible and apparent. Not far from this temple, always at the base of the mountain is the Temple of Mut, built by Pharaoh Taharqa and dedicated to the bride of Amun, the Egyptian sky goddess. Particularly suggestive are the innermost rooms, carved into the side of the mountain, which contain splendid bas-reliefs and hieroglyphics.

Jebel Barkal, Bas-reliefs in Temple of Mut
Jebel Barkal, bas-reliefs in the Temple of Mut

A small Royal Cemetery lies in the western part of Jebel Barkal featuring around 20 pyramids well preserved and dating back to the 3rd century BC. The cemetery was used by Napatan Kings for a short period before the centre of the kingdom was moved to Meroe. The pyramids of the Jebel Barkal necropolis are the most intact and best-preserved of the whole Nubia.

Jebel Barkal, the royal cemetery
Jebel Barkal, the royal cemetery

The best point of view to enjoy the sunset is the top of Jebel Barkal. You can easily climb up the mountain from the south-western side, and it takes only 15/20 minutes to get to the top. Coming back is really fun as there’s a sand drift covering the west side where you can “ski-down”.

Jebel Barkal, sunset from the top
Jebel Barkal, sunset from the top

Need to Know about Jebel Barkal

How to get there: if you are travelling yourself, you can catch a bus from Khartoum to Karima, and once in the city, you can take a taxi to visit the archaeological sites. The best option is to bargain with a taxi driver and rent the taxi for the whole day.

Where to sleep: we slept in Merowe at Merowe Tourist Village (70 USD the double room – Phone: +249 12 340 1624). Alternatively, you can ask in Karima/Merowe for a Nubian guest house. 

Where to eat: in the central square of Karima there are some good small restaurants where you can taste delicious local food.

About the archaeological site: You’ll never find a booth or a stand where to pay for the ticket; therefore, no worry, keep visiting the site, and the guardian will reach you. We spent 10 USDClick here to see the location of Jebel Barkal.

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Jebel Barkal, the Temple of Amun
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