The temple is cut into the rock of the mointain. If there are a lot of tourists, as there were on our first visit, going into the temple can be unpleasant as it is small, hot and smells strongly of bats droppings. Plus it becomes difficult to see anything clearly.
However when we went in December 2008 and were the only visitors, we could see clearly the paintings of gods and kings on the walls , with the aid of the guide's torch. The usual gods of the underworld like Thoth and Mut are there. Taharqa is clearly identifiable and various emblems like the uraeus. One of the pillars near the entrance depicts the god Bes. Remains of colour can be seen on the lintel of the inner entrance and on the ceilig of the outer chamber.
The first time I went to Barkal, there was a coach party there too, so the site was busy. In December 2008 we were the only visitors and the guide was able to give us a lot of information. So, we walked away from the mountain and the clister of ruins to what would have been the entrance to the original site. There we found 6 rams in place leading to the cetral passage.Such avenues of rams can be seen also at Naga, nr Shendi, Sudan; and the famous ones at Luxor in Egypt. Meoritic rams have carved into their body a simulation of fleece. Since the stone is often granite, this shows remarkable patience. There are holes on the heads where crowns would have been inserted [according to the guide].
We were also told that there were 26 columns, some of which have broken off near the base, others are more or less complete.
This was all missed by us on our first visit.
The village lies behind the mountain, and like others faced the floods of 1988, which caused destruction in the area. Houses were destroyed and abandoned, the owners moving to higher ground, building on rocks and outcrops. Driving through is like visiting a ghost town. Originally I thought people may have left to work in the Gulf, or migrated to Khartoum. If so, this was a minority. A travelling companion put me right by explaining about the flood, and how the owners of the houses moved to higher ground, rebuilding their houses with stones and bricks from their original homes..
I was attracted to the pigeon houses, looking like castle towers.
The museum at Jebel Barkal is quite small with a few statues and artefacts found at the site.
We arrived just after a bus party, so decided to visit the ruins and temple first, but were told we had to begin with the visit to the Museum . The reason for this was that the same man [guide] has the key to both . A young backpacker, red in the face , tried to join the group, but was turned back.
Apart from the few statues, artefacts and a Christian skeleton, there are posters with information about the site and the history of the region.
I have read that there is a fee to enter the sites, obtainable from either Khartoum or Merowe, but I don't really know. We were not charged anything- there were locals with us, but elsewhere we were told interested Sudanese can enter free.
If you are lucky, as were in Dec 2008, to have the whole site and museum to ourselves, you can appreciate the exhibits much more.
This table top mountain was revered by the Ancient Egyptians as the main residence of the god Amun. The pinnacle that looks like [ depending on the viewer] the uraeus [cobra] of kingship, or the shape of a king gave rise to this belief. The locals also believe it is a special place.
It is a sandstone massif dominating the plain around it. Although steep and rocky, it is possible to climb, and the coming down is aided by the presence of a sand dune. (See Mafi_Moya's page.)
The Barkal pyramids are in much better condition than those of Nuri.They are in front of Barkal mountain. There were over40 belonging to Kings and queens. The pyramids are from 6 -30 m high, tall and narrow with an incline of about 70 degrees. There occupants were mummified and had jewellery , and were in wooden mummy cases, as shown on wall reliefs.
Archaeologists are still not in agreement as to the chronology of the Meroitic pyramids, but it seems as if the Barkal and Bejrawiya groups are contemporaneous after examining the style of the pyramids, the chapels and decorations. All are made of stone laid horizontally in courses, and filled with rubble, which then collapses if the outer layers are damaged or removed. The Meroitic period is generally accepted as being between 500 BC - 500 AD, with the capital at Meroe.
The temples have been described elsewhere. There may not be much to see now, but there must have been quite a complex at some time. Now only a few columns remain standing, and sarcophagus or stones inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The museum is quite small but has many posters giving information on the history of Sudan, as well as a few artifacts from nearby sites. The guard or guide has the key to the museum and the Amun temple, and forced us another bus party to enter the museum first, so that he could then lock it, and take us to the temple.
I don't remember seeing any notice about opening times, nor did we pay to enter.
At the pinnacle end of the Jebel Barkal are the remains of what would have been a palace and temples , possibly as many as 13 temples and 2 palaces. Though nowadays it is difficult to imagine this mass of stones and columns as being such. Alongside there are inscribed blocks of stones from the Egyptian era, including 159 lines of hieroglyphics erected by King Piye [Pianki].
When the site was excavated lots of bread moulds were discovered beside the temples,possibly from bread offerings to the priests. The temple pointed to the mountain where there was a cut out temple to Amun and Mut. Two sistrum shaped columns are standing with the face of Mut with cow's ears.
For a clear view of the temple layout visit Mafi_Moya's Barkal page, taken from the top of the mountain.
The climb to the top of the mountain - and getting back down again - is one of the best bits. On the Barkal village side there's a very steep sand bank that you climb up and down. The mountain is so small that if there were steps it'd take about a minute to walk up - ploughing your way through the sliding sand can take a few minutes longer. Coming back down again is a case of running and hoping for the best - hey, if you fall then it's only sand!
If you come here it's probably to see the mountain and ruins so the village itself usually gets forgotten about. With Karima so close there's no reason to stay here but it's still worth a walk through. A good walk is from Karima, around the back of the mountain and through the edge of the desert, entering the village from behind - there's some interesting houses built into the rocks and some friendly families.
On the edge of the mountain is this strange tooth-like rock jutting up towards the sky. The locals have literally dozens of stories about how it got there and what it signifies - ask and ye shall be told!