Meroe is situated about 200 kilomtres northeast of Khartoum. It was an important centre in the Kingdom of Kush since the Napatan period, eventually becoming its capital when the royal cemetery moved there from its previous location at Nuri near Jebel Barkal about 300 BC. The power of Meroe was at least partly based on its iron production, the metal being in great demand in the ancient world at that time.
The so-called Royal City, an area enclosed by a massive town wall, forms but the centre of the very extensive site. It contains the ruins of several palaces, small temples and fancy elite architecture. The main temple precinct directly abuts the Royal City. It comprises a large temple to Amun which is accessed through a processual avenue lined by minor temples.
Further inland, about 5 kilometres away from the Nile, the Meroitic kings built their tombs in the shape of pyramids – much smaller and steeper than their Egyptian forerunners, but in their multitude equally impressive. Each pyramid has a funerary chapel at its eastern side which is decorated with reliefs depicting the royal tomb owners and a variety of funerary scenes.
In 2011, Meroe was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the serial property "Island of Meroe".