Rival to Egypt, the Nubian kingdom of Kush exuded power and gold

Adorned with tall, slender pyramids, the wealthy Nile city of Meroë was the seat of power of Kush, an ancient kingdom and rival to Egypt.

Kushite culture blended Egyptian customs into its own, creating a distinctive, visual style. Truncated and with steep sides, the pyramids left by the long line of Nubian kings populate the desert near the site of Meroë.
Photograph by Nigel Pavitt, Awl Images

Rising high in the sky in the modern-day nation of Sudan is a plethora of pyramids. They mark the site of the ancient city Meroë, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The center of a powerful civilization, Meroë served as the capital city of Kush whose robust culture thrived for centuries. Their grand architecture and works of art left a lasting testament to the greatness of the Nubian kings and queens.

Located in the desert sands near the Nile in modern Sudan, the ancient culture of Nubia played a decisive role in shaping Egypt from the eighth century B.C., serving as that kingdom’s 25th dynasty in the Late Period. After the Nubian pharaohs lost power, they retreated south from Egypt to form the Kingdom of Kush, which thrived in splendid isolation as the rest of Egypt suffered through repeated invasions from Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks.

Because of Meroë’s distance, the Kushites were able to retain their independence, developing their own vibrant hybrid of Egyptian culture and religion until well into the fourth century A.D. With access to mines and minerals, the Meroites were expert goldworkers. They built temples, palaces, and royal baths in their capital. Perhaps their grandest achievements are the more than 200 pyramids built at the necropolis at Meroë, giving Sudan more pyramids than all of Egypt. Tall, slender, graceful: These monuments bear witness to the lasting splendor that was Kush.

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