The Qatari government has donated $135m to the cause of Sudanese archaeology in the single largest tranch of funding for such efforts in the entire history of the African country, and as part of a broad programme of activities that are being assisted by Western nations.

According to Salahaddin Mohammed Ahmed, project coordinator, the funds will support 29 projects in Sudan over the next five years including the excavation of sites, rehabilitation of existing ancient relics, the construction of museums and study of the Meroitic language.

“This is the biggest amount of money for Sudanese antiquities in their entire history,” Abdurrahman Ali, head of museums, also told reporters, adding that the project will lay the foundation for the development and pursuance of “archaeological tourism” in the country.

Sudan has some of the most incredible, unexplored antiquities sites in Africa, including more pyramids than Egypt as a result of the Kush kingdom that flourished in northeastern Africa from around 750-650BC – its treasures left relatively undisturbed until recently.

The donation from the Qatari government could now change that, as Sudan can now begin laying the groundwork for developing cultural tourism as one of a series of economic tools aimed at drawing the country away from the civil war and unrest that has wracked it for decades.

In the short term, what this requires is dedicated resources and research, hard work and capacity building, applications to UNESCO (which has already approved two World Heritage Sites), and a dedicated drive towards the infrastructure to support international visitors.