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Kassala is not the ideal place to buy clothes, but if you need any, you will certainly not have a hard time finding a shop selling some. Half of the souq is geared up for clothes imported from Syria, China or Kenya. Each type of clothes has its own little corner...shirts and jeans, jellabiyyas and waistcoats, skullcaps, headscarves and tobes (similar to the Indian sari), nightdresses, shoes...but there is a lot of overlap, so i won't worry about giving exact details.
One thing I should point out is that there is no Sudanese size system...it depends on where the clothes come from, but generally there is a choice of huge, very huge, or skintight. As there are generally no changing rooms for you to try on the garments, you can often walk away with some very ill-fitting clothes if you're not careful!
What to buy: Traditional clothes are still popular in Sudan, with the Eastern tribes such as Haddendawa and Halanga wearing white jellabiyyas with a black waistcoat over the top, called a "sidayri". There are plenty of places selling these, but be warned...show a modicum of interest and you'll be an instant crowd-puller!
For women, bright colourful tobes are available in many shops...Sudanese women tend to choose the loudest pattern possible, which looks quite stunning in Sudan, but is maybe not quite the thing you can wear back home!
African shirts for men are also fairly "loud"...again, good to wear in Sudan, but I don't dare wear the one I was given in the streets of Birmingham.
Jeans generally come in two sizes...skintight/anorexic or baggy and billowing, but you can strike lucky if you search hard. The young and trendy Sudanese are into patterned jeans...these are known as Suhaabi jeans, and are more expensive than the plain ones.
Football shirts are widely available, usually in the colours of Brazil or Senegal, the two most popular teams. Hadji Diouf, the Senegalese player, is the big football hero, so shirts with his name on are particularly prized.
Hats...well, in the main souq, there are two great hat stalls selling skullcaps and knitted African hats popular with Kassala's trendsetters...look for the men sitting on the floor between two juice stalls. There is also a coffee seller here, so you could sip a jebbana while trying out the hats.
Shoes have a tendency to fall apart within days...they are just not strong enough to cope with all the walking I do! They are fairly cheap, so if you desperately need shoes, then all is not lost...and you can have them sewn back together again in the bus station for a few dinars.
Tailors abound in Kassala...so if you prefer to have your own clothes made up, ask a local to guide you in the right direction. If you're female, take your measurements BEFORE going to the tailor!
What to pay: Jeans can be had for S£30,000, Suhaabi jeans for S£40,000...shirts for between S£5000 and S£15,000...tobes, I'll get back to you on that one!
Updated Oct 18, 2004
Address: Kassala Souq
The Rashaida tribe have very different clothes on offer at their own market near the hospital. Clothes are made locally, often in the shops themselves, and the best time to buy is early morning when the Rashaida are in town. Be warned though, that you will attract a lot of attention from just being in the Rashaida souq, so you might want to take a local friend with you who can explain what you are doing there. The Rashaida are generally very curious about foreigners, but it is best to let them come to you rather than force yourself on them.
What to buy: For women, you could pick up one of the red patterned dresses which are made under the makeshift shelters in the Rashaida Souq. The patterns range from traditional red and black dots and stripes, to modern patterns including pictures of mobile phones and satellite dishes! To complete the Rashaida look, haggle over a black headscarf which is worn over the mouth but allows the hair to fall loose around the face. Men wear coloured jellabiyyas...the "in" colour of 2004 was dark red, although light blue was also popular. Top this off with a different coloured shawl or turban and a walking stick.
Written Oct 18, 2004
Address: Souq ar-Rashaida
The women's market is the place to shop for all your coffee needs, although all the sellers seem to be men! Basically, it is a few short streets lined with stalls selling coffee pots and other things generaly associated with women (make-up, incense, etc...).It is sort of hard to describe how to find it, but if you ever come to Kassala, I can show you where it is!
What to buy: Every good Kassalawi has all the equipment to make good Sudanese coffee, and the various items make great souvenirs. The most important piece is the Jebbana, an odd shaped clay pot for boiling your coffee in. Next on your list should be the coffee pot stand, a circular piece of material decorated with sequins and other gawdy shiny things. While you're there, pick up a plastic hairy filter to shove in the spout of the jebbana to stop lumps dropping in your coffee. You'll also need a finjaan set, six small brightly painted cups with no handles.
To roast the coffee, you can buy a special coffee-roasting tin and a charcoal stove, then it is off up the street to buy your fundug and mudugga (mortar and pestle) to pound your roast coffee beans and ginger.
Lastly, you'll need the coffee beans themselves, bought raw and green by the kilo in the spices souq...most traders tend to throw in some stem ginger free, as coffee just isn't coffee without ginger. There will aslo be some pressure to buy some sugar too!
What to pay: Depends entirely on how good you are at bargaining, but everything can be bought for a few dollars.
Written Apr 29, 2003