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Culture - Arts | Travel - Leisure

First Sudanese world heritage site named

afrol News, 4 July - For the first time, a Sudanese cultural monument is included in the World Heritage List. Gebel Barkal and nearby sites of the Napatan Region, deemed to have "outstanding universal value", include ancient pyramids and tombs on the banks of the Nile with a great historic and religious importance.

"Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region", located 400 kilometres north of Khartoum, this week were included into the World Heritage List, according to a release by UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, which edits the list and each year decides whether to include new sites of global cultural or natural importance.

The property includes several archaeological sites, over more than 60 kilometres in the Nile valley. The archaeological history dates back to Egyptian (pharaonic) establishments about 1450 BC and continues through the independent Nubian kingdoms of the Napatan (900 to 270 BC) and Meroitic (270 BC to 350 AD) cultures, to the second kingdom of Kush. Napata continued as an important royal residence and religious centre until about 350 BC.

The Nubian sites, which now are called the Gebel Barkal region, include a large number of archaeological findings. Tombs, with and without pyramids, temples, living complexes and palaces are to be found on the site.

After the Napata kingdoms collapsed, the site was left barren for centuries. It was finally rediscovered by European expeditions in the 1820s. Beginning in 1916, Gebel Barkal has been one of the predominant archaeological sites in Sudan, contributing to most of the existing knowledge of the ancient Nubian kingdoms, located in the interface between pharaonic Egyptian culture and Sub-Saharan cultures.

For the UNESCO, it was an easy task to approve the Sudanese government's application for the inclusion of Gebel Barkal into the World Heritage List. The extraordinary site corresponded with six of the UN agency's criteria for inclusion.

According to UNESCO's inclusion approval, the pyramids and tombs - being also part of the special desert border landscape, on the banks of the Nile - "are unique in their typology and technique."

- The remains are the testimony to an ancient important culture which existed and flourished in this region only, the UNESCO decision reads. The ancient Nubian kingdoms were or great importance to the history of Sudan, but also to the history of the Egyptian-Mediterranean cultures and Sub-Saharan cultures.

Finally, since antiquity the hill of Gebel Barkal had been strongly associated with religious traditions and local folklore, an important reason to name it a World Heritage Site. "For this reason, the largest temples - Amon Temple for example - were built at the foot of the hill and are still considered by the local people as sacred places," UNESCO says.

Twenty-four sites were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, including, for the first time, sites in The Gambia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Sudan. The World Heritage List now numbers 754 sites, including 149 natural, and 582 cultural and 23 mixed sites "of outstanding universal value". Gebel Barkal was included as one of 19 new cultural sites to the list.

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