National Parks and World Heritage Sites

Inside the Dongola walls: Medieval Nubian Kingdom of Sudan

The fort of Dongola are essentially dried brick and sandstone fortification walls featured round towers, six meters wide, projecting up to 8 meters from the wall, built at regular distances of 32-35 meters.

The enclosure reached a height of 10 meters, and were 5 meters thick, enclosing a citadel that occupied 4.5 hectares, overlooking the Nile.

These fortifications have been dated to the late fifth and sixth centuries AD. The citadel housed an administrative building, a royal palace complex, a royal church, a commemorative building and houses. It was the beating heart of this early Christian kingdom.

The walls of Dongola most famously saw action during the Second Battle of Dongola, when Makurian forces under the Nubian King Qalidurut, for the second time, defeated an invasion of Arab forces of the Rashidun Caliphate.

In their second attempt, the Arab forces under Abdallah ibn Sa’d, the governor of Egypt, advanced up to the walls of Dongola, but were unable to breach its fortifications with their heavy cavalry and single catapult.

Paintings inside the walls of Dongola depicting an old Christian culture

Suffering heavy losses, beaten back by Nubian archers, nicknamed “pupil smiters” for their accuracy, the Rashidun commander, Abdallah was forced to call off the siege and negotiate a truce known as the “Baqt”, which lasted for more than five centuries.

The Baqt, which ensured a relative peace between Muslim Egypt and Christian Nubia for centuries, involved the exchange of wheat, lentils, barley, wine, horses and linen from Egypt for 360 slaves per year from Nubia, although these exact conditions were not always met.

Excavations at Old Dongola have been carried out in cooperation with the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, Department of Archaeology of Egypt and Nubia, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw and the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums in Sudan.

Archaeological teams from the University of Warsaw have been diligently excavating the site since 1964, with assistance from the people from Ghaddar and Bokkibul, the neighbouring villages, who have strong ancestral connections to the site.