Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Sai Island

Date of Submission: 01/02/2022
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Sudanese National Commission for Education, Science and Culture
State, Province or Region:
Northern Sudan
Coordinates: 20.7083° N, 30.3250° E
Ref.: 6595

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Sai is a large island in the Nile (12x5.5 km) situated between the second and third cataracts of the Nile in Upper Nubia, in a strategic position just at the southern end of the Batn el-Hagar and provided excellent conditions for settlement and cultivation. It has a long history of occupation, dating from Palaeolithic times right through to Ottoman and the present day. It is well known that the Egyptian involvement in Nubia was intensive during the New Kingdom and Sai Island played a major role in this era. It is located in a border region, close to the second cataract area, which has been the spotlight of various and changing interactions between ancient Egypt and Kush since Predynastic times. In the second millennium BC, two ruling powers were prevailing the area: The Pharaonic Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush based on the town of Kerma. An Egyptian-style temple town was erected on the island, with an enclosure wall, major mud brick buildings and a sandstone temple. Sai is one of the key sites in Sudan to illustrate the heyday of Egyptian culture in Nubia during the 2nd millennium BC, but also the specific adaptation of the Egyptian lifestyle by indigenous Nubians plus the local substratum of a unique Nubian culture surviving throughout the ages. The Pharaonic town is located on the eastern bank of the island. It has the shape of a fortified settlement with an orthogonal layout. Associated with the town are several nearby cemeteries forming an integral part of the New Kingdom constructions on the island. Sai also was an important royal site during the Meroitic Period. This testified by the discovery of column capitals with the names of Queen Amanitore and King Natakamani. Sai Island also reveals the presence of X-group burials dated to the 4th century AD. The remains of Medieval Christian cruciform church, identified as a cathedral, demonstrate that Sai was the seat of a Nubian Bishop. Ottoman presence is also well noted in Sai Island when the fort was built in the sixteen century AD over part of the walled New Kingdom town.

The property is protected under the Antiquities Protection Ordinance of 1999 and the regional degree from the Northern State to protect the cultural heritage. However, its sustainable protection against the different threats notably the environmental and the human factors, and conservation and future research exceed the capacities of the national country. Therefore, the international protection is indispensable for the sustainability of the property.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Sai Island is an exceptional testimony that provided evidence of early human occupation in this part of Africa, notably the Homo-erectus and the Homo-Sapience. It provided early attested evidence for the use of colour in the world. Sai is one of the key sites in Sudan to illustrate the heyday of Egyptian culture in Nubia during the 2nd millennium BC, but also the specific adaptation of the Egyptian lifestyle by indigenous Nubians plus the local substratum of a unique Nubian culture surviving throughout the ages (reflects the mutual influences across cultures; African Nubian and the Pharaonic Egypt). Sai reflects the continuity of best-preserved monuments and occupation from the Prehistory to the Ottoman period. All these attributes qualify Sai as unique with an outstanding Universal Value and will be of great importance to whole world. 

Criterion (ii): Sai Island is the biggest island in the River Nile. It exhibits an important interchange of human values that can be expressed through its archaeological remains from 300,000 years till the 14th century. It reflects the development of architecture and town planning which is well integrated in the natural landscape. Sai Island function as “bridgehead” between Egypt in the North and the realm of the kingdom of Kerma in the South. It represents a complex mixture of Nubian and Egyptian lifestyles during the New Kingdom.

Criterion (iii): Sai is a unique testimony cultural tradition of Homo-sapiens and Homo-erectus, as well as Kushite, Pharaonic and Christian civilizations which had been disappeared. 

Criterion (iv): Sai is an outstanding example which provided evidence of well-preserved settlement of early human occupation which is well integrated in the Nile Valley environment

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


Sai Island is a unique site, which consists of an agglomeration of well-preserved monuments which provided evidence for understanding the human and the ecological history of Nubia from the prehistory to the Islamic period.


These monuments retain their structural components and original locations within the island without any significant changes. However, the impact of the archaeological explorations, environmental degradation and recent pillage due to local gold prospection have little impact on the authenticity of Sai monuments.

Comparison with other similar properties

Sai Island is a unique site without any parallel in Nubia. It can be compared with Habo City, Philae, and Luxor in Egypt (WHR.88).