UNESCO World Heritage Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe: Strengthening of the Local Economy

The National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums in Sudan supported local merchants by building sales stands and providing training to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The programme

The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.

All projects

The Island of Meroe is located in the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush, which was a major power in the ancient world from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Meroe became the main residence of the monarchs and was the site of most royal burials from the 3rd century BC onwards.

The Site consists of three separate parts: Meroe, the capital, which includes a burial ground, and Musawwarat es-Sufra and Naqa, two settlements and religious centres. These three sites are the best-preserved relics of the Kingdom of Kush and include a wide range of architectural forms and building types, including pyramids, temples, palaces and production sites. They bear witness to a culture that was influential in the political, religious, social, artistic and technological development of the Middle and Northern Nile Valley over a period of more than a thousand years.

The architectural structures, the applied iconography and the evidence of production and trade, including pottery and ironworking, testify to the wealth and power of the Cushitic state. The preserved water reservoirs also contribute to our understanding of the paleoclimate and hydrological conditions in the region in the later centuries BC and the first centuries AD.

Restrictions due to the pandemic

Since its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, the number of visitors to Meroe has increased considerably, so that tourism is now one of the most important sources of income for the local community. Therefore, the pandemic-related closures and restrictions had a significant economic impact on the people. The site itself was also threatened by the pandemic: Regular conservation measures such as the removal of sand had to be stopped.

Sales stands: an effective remedy

Due to the tense political situation in Sudan, not all of the originally planned activities within the framework of #SOSAfricanHeritage could be realised. The National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) adjusted the project plan accordingly and has implemented the following measures despite the challenging circumstances:

In order to promote the local economy, the NCAM supported merchants by building sales stands at the entrance to the site. The project also trained locals in traditional crafts. In workshops, the participants could improve their handicraft skills and acquire knowledge in marketing in order to be able to sell their home-made products more successfully.

Based on oral surveys, a report was prepared documenting the complete closure of the World Heritage Site and the impact on the local population. The knowledge gained from working with the local community was incorporated into the site’s management plan and serves as an important basis for its successful further development.

The consortium

On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.

The International Relief Fund

The project

  • Site: Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe
  • Country: Sudan
  • Type of Site: UNESCO World Heritage
  • Year of inscription: 2011


Website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre


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