This large complex [The Great Enclosure] is still a subject of discussion among archaeologists who cannot agree as to what it actually was. There are features of the Meroitic like the snake-headed god/dess Apedemak, unexpected features like ramps, elephant statue and carvings. Its name comes from the word 'pictures' as there are pictures of elephants, monkeys on a log, camels etc. but to me these look more like graffiti than the kind of pictures normally found in a temple.
Ramps lead their way through buildings. Unfortunately the water table has risen and water marks are visible at the bottom of the walls.
Excavation has found large pots for holding shrubs , suggesting there was a garden here.
Since I last visited this site, a small museum has been opened.
The Lion temple is reconstructed a short walk from Mussawarat el Sofra. It is a typical Egyptian -style temple with pylon type entance. The walls are decorated with the traditional gods and goddesses, but the kings and queens are local.
Inside there are representations of elephants as well as cows, gods , goddesses etc.
It is fascinating to find such a temple in the middle of nowhere, put there for what purpose and by whom?
This site, situated at the foot of a hill, miles from anywhere is a place of mystery. many theories have been put forward as to its purpose : training camp for elephants, religious school or pilgrimage site, country estate.
A short time ago it was possible to wander around and not see another soul, but now Dr Gaafer Mirghani has been doing a lot to develop the archaeological sites in the area. There is a museum explaining the site, and other plans are in progress.
The many representations of elephants seemed to have given rise that the site was for training elephants, but for what purpose? There is a hint of Indian influence , perhaps. But at the same time the Egyptian style architecture is obvious though the local god [part snake, suggests India to me] is not found among the Egyptian gods.
The name means Pictures [Mussawarat] but most of the pictures are more like sketches or graffiti. The real pictures are the Egyptian style carved walls of the Lion Temple a short walk away, which is truly Egyptian in style.
Getting to Musawwarat or the neighbouring site Naqaa [ about 15 km away] when we went was not easy without a guide as most of the journey after getting near Shendi entails leaving the tarmac road and heading across the desert. The track is rough- sand, gravel iron stone, and clay so only a 4X4 vehicle is suitable, or a bus with poor suspension! as we had when we went with Sudan Archaeological Association. The area goes across dry river beds [wadis] which can be difficult after rain. It is possible to follow the tracks , even in a sandstorm, if you have an idea of which hills to follow.
Nowadays there are some tourist agencies which rent out 4x4 pickups , with a driver.
As there are few facilities a good supply of water is essential, as well as food. Make sure the vehicle has sufficient fuel as it is easy to get lost among the hills.
At Naqaa there are no facilities at all.