All women in the past used to wear the tobe, a strip of long cloth wrapped round the body and over the left shoulder. The material was colourful and usually of fine cotton or chiffon. Many of the older women still do wear it.
Many younger women wear the tobe only for special occasions like weddings.
Most younger women wear a long skirt, long tunic blouse and a head covering .Sleeves should be long.
Trousers are still not normally worn except with a long tunic, or by young girls who imitate the western dress.
Foreigners can get away with respectable western clothes.
It is usual for people to eat together from a round tray. Many dishes including meat, salads, a stew of some kind are eaten with bread, rice or kisra [an unleavened 'bread' made from sorghum, which is wafer thin}.
People dip in to the dishes using two or three fingers of their right hand.
The left hand is unclean as used for ablutions. A similar idea to the Latin 'sinister'.
Foreign guests may be given a spoon if they request one.
Beware, some people feel or squeeze the meat in order to find the softest pieces.
Men are usually fed first and get the choicest dishes, then the women and children have whatever is left.
Eid el Adha celebrates the occasion when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismail. At the last moment God sent a ram to be slaughtered in place of the boy. Every year Moslems kill a ram or goat . All adult males are expected to do this. The meat is divided so that the family has some and the rest is distributed to the poor and needy.
This year 2006, a decent ram costs 270, 000 Sudanese pounds, and the butcher who slaughters it expects to get 50,000 and the head and skin of the ram.
For days before the Eid shepherds congregate along the road or in open spaces with their animals. Potential buyers inspect the animals and select a good beast with no flaws. This will be kept at home until after the Eid prayers, then it will be given a drink of water and have its throat cut. Once the blood has drained, the butcher makes a cut in the skin and blows into the hole , which causes the fleece to separate from the fascia easily.
As mentioned elsewhere, the innards , lungs and liver are a great delicacy. The red meat is then fried or made into stew.
Men and children and elderly women congregate for the prayers, usually about 8 am. They wear new or clean clothes, and after the prayers go visiting and wishing people fortune, marriage, good health, children in the coming year. On this day meat is fried and devoured. Sweets and cookies will also be offered to guests.
In most parts of the Sudan people sleep on an angareb- a wooden framed bed whose body is of rope, fashioned into a design.
In the past the ropes were of sisal, but now more likely to be of plastic or plastic rope.
If the tension sags after long use, a man can come and tighten the ropes , or even re-weave it if necessary. To do this he perches on the wooden frame and passes the rope back and fro in his chosen design.
A cotton-filled mattress is then put on the bed. This is more comfortable than the modern foam-filled mattresses which are too hot in summer.
Foul [horse beans] are eaten for breakfast and /or supper by most households.
Visitors to the country find it the first dish that they can enjoy.
The beans can be cooked in different ways, according to different people. Nowadays it can be bought ready made in tins.
Basically the beans are cleaned and sorted, to remove any hard ones, dirt etc. Then they are usually soaked overnight and boiled either in a special pot [gidra] , pan, or in a pressure cooker for a few hours until the beans are soft. Some people like to add a date or two , or some lentils , to add to the colour and taste.
To serve the beans, scoop them with some of the liquid into a plate, season with salt and dried dill [shamar] and pour on some sesame seed oil.
There are other variations: the foul can be cooked again with tomatoes and onions ,and lightly mashed. Local white cheese goes well on top.
It can be eaten in a sandwich, or from a plate using bread to dip in.
Sudanese are friendly people, especially in Khartoum. Whenever they meet each other, they will greet each other by shaking hands, hugging and touching their right palm on the other's shoulder. They will also say the standard greeting in Arabic and ask "How are you?", "How is your family?", so on and so forth. Don't be surprised when you meet the same person 5 times and 5 times you will greeted the same, lengthy way. Tourists and visitors are not expected to do the same but a standard handshake is good.
Saturday is the start of the week - though this is likely to change very soon with the introduction of Friday and Saturday as weekend. So; in schools it is customary for the schoolchildren to clean the school. It will be done in rotation, so sometimes you will find a few girls going to school carrying the local 'brush' ,a bundle of dom palm hearts bundled to make a mukshasha. This is a very efficient means of dealing with the dusty ground.
Women were accustomed to carrying things on heir heads, anything from pots or pails of water, wood , grass, baskets of vegetables., churns of milk. This is still very common in rural areas, and from time to time in Khartoum among the lowlier levels of society.
One Friday morning I saw this early riser either on her way home from the vegetable market. Or perhaps carrying her utensils to her site where she sells tea.
Their sense of balance is fantastic.
The art of bargaining in Sudan
One thing that I've noticed during my stay here in Khartoum is that everything goes so much easier if you have a big smile on your face and can speak a few words in arabic. So if somebody tell you a price that you think is too high, just say "lala" and give him/her the biggest smile that you can possibly produce. The sudanese will always give you a smile back and be a little more friendly than otherwise. Just try and see!
In the "fancy" (sudanese standards) shops, the small local shops you find everywhere and, in Afra mall and the oh-so-expensive supermarkets the prices are the same for everyone so no need to bargain there. However, in the local suqs (markets) you should be prepared to bargain like crazy. It's always a good idea to bring a local friend that knows approxomately what to pay and can help you to bargain in arabic if necessary.
In the taxi, amjadh (the small mini vans) or riskshaw you should always agree on a price before you get in. Start with some 50% of the suggested price mentioned by the driver and work your way up to an appropriate price. Make sure that you have the exact amount too since some drivers will claim not to have change.
Some people are actually honest
Yes, really! Old people are most likely to tell you a fair price so don't bargain just because you're supposed to if you suspect that the price mentioned is fair.
Khartoum is an Islamic country and therefore, it is adviseable for visitors to dress decently to respect the local residents. Women are not expected to wear a head scarf but men & women are advised not to expose their arms & legs in public
In Northern Sudan most people are muslims. Some people are more religious than other. The women in the family I stay with in Khartoum was very shy towards me and I could speak just a few words with them and I was not allowed to have their pictures taken. The women in Port Sudan was very different. I spoke with them all the time and they even seem to think it was fun having pictures taken. To avoid getting into trouble behave careful at first in order to see if those you meet are strictly muslims or more liberal.PHOTO: THE EL NILEIN MOSQUE IN KHARTOUM
Medical services in Sudan are not cheap, but are readily available. In most areas there is a 'Merkhaz el Sahi' where a doctor is on duty to deal with emergency cases.
Then there are the Government Run Hospitals - Khartoum Teaching Hospital, El Shaab Hospital, and Soba University Hospital which deal with general emergencies, and the common medical problems. The Police Hospital and The Heart Hospital are two others.
In addition to these are a large number of Private Clinics and Hospitals. I have been treated at Doctor's Hospital, El Sheikh Specialised Hospital and the first and last of the government hospitals. Treatment by doctors is generally very good, but the follow up nursing is less so. The wards are basic to say the least unless you are in a private room.
All treatment has to be paid for, and rooms and operations are expensive.
Medicines are usually readily available and can be bought at any pharmacy without a prescription.
If a person is ill in hospital, relatives and friends come to visit regularly. If an operation is to take place, crowds of relatives, friends and neighbours will come and sit outside the hospital waiting for news of the outcome. Because so many people come from the provinces too, it is common to see dozens of people sitting on mats with food containers, thermos flasks etc. These are to feed those who come to visit the patient and his relatives..
When the patient is fit to have visitors, the family will offer the visitors sweets, so it is customary to bring tins of sweets or fruit to give the visitors, rather than the patient as happens elsewhere.
Wandering the dusty streets of Khartoum, I cross many locals waiting for the rickshaws and the buses, men wearing blouses and pants or the local "Iraqieh" a kind of white cotton gulabieh with a white turban or an embroidered local head dress (similar to the Nigerian cap) on their heads and sandals on their feet, those with higher status drop a a white shawl with blue embroided motives around their shoulders.
Nubian beauties ,on the other hand, wear low waist pants or long skirts under their tunique. The young girls wear the latest fashion of shirts, the "Diana Haddad Blouse" which nothing but a tight shirt to show the silhouette. The tunique is a large sari they wrap around their waist line covering their legs and then they wear another "sari" around their upper body. then the most important part of the dress is the "Torha" which is a veil; most famous torha, which remains the definition of urban cool, is the so-called "Ah w Noss" torha similar to the one that the Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram wears in her Hit-video clip. Young Women wear the torha in a way to display notions of respectability , allure and to assert a distinctive attitude and presence; a torha could be worn "Khali Mass'ouliah" (Not responsible) style thus revealing half of the head or for those who dare a torha will be worn "3adam el wali" (No tutor) style revealing all of the head and telling eveyone MYOB!
If you happen to see two men walking and holding hands, don't assume that something odd is going on. For two men or two women holding hands together while walking is to show that they are close friends. That's all
Women- if you see a man wearing a jellabiya that reaches above his ankles, don't expect him to offer to shake hands. He will be a member of a strict religious sect, who will never look a woman in the eye or touch her.