Sudan (Arabic: سودان) is one of the largest and most diversified countries in Africa. From Nubians with an Arab identity, to Dinkas and Furs and Beja, Sudan is a true multi-culturalism. Not without an eye on Egypt, Sudanese consider Egyptian culture as part of their own. This article will contain what SaharaSafaris Travelers have collected to explain Sudan's culture and nature and is a continuously updated project.
Sudanese Wedding Ceremony
listening to her, describing the rituals, gives your imagination wings to fly. In her living room with the incense smell and smoke enveloping the scene, Salma Al-Assal (Sudanese singer, wedding organizer and traditional dancing trainer) starts to prepare her famous Sudanese coffee in tiny china cups to welcome us. From time to time, she points to her daughter wearing the red Sudanese wedding dress (it has to be a red one to keep the evil eye away) with all its heavy golden jewelry and explains the Sudanese traditional wedding ceremony
The ceremony has to go continually on seven days:
A friend of the groom has to invite the two families to hold a first night of Henna (a kind of a bachelor party) for the lucky groom.
This is the official Henna night, held by the groom where lambs have to be slaughtered, cooked; all friends and the two families are invited.
This is the day of “Al Serdja السرجة”, where the groom has to come to the bride house with his family riding a horse and holding his sword. Now the groom comes to his bride’s house with a bus, picks her up from the hair dresser and drives her to her home, where the bride’s family prepares a big dinner for the guests with all kind of meat and the season’s fruits, “With no fruits no wedding”, very seriously highlights elSet Salma. The guests keep partying and dancing in the streets (not for very late because, according to Set Salma now there is a curfew forbidding late ceremonies after 11PM in Sudan).
In this day, the two families sign the wedding papers (كتب كتاب), yet the groom leaves his bride at her family’s house.
Al Sabaheya الصبحية , and this doesn’t refer to the morning of the nuptial night like in Egypt, but the morning of the wedding’s signing papers. In this day, the most important ritual has to take place : Al guirtik الجرتيك: this word refers to the ritual itself and in the same time a traditional set of Wooden jars (which is inherited from father to son). These jars have to contain basically incense, but in the big and rich families it contains powdered sandalwood and mahleb محلب , and might be made from silver or ivory. The set is composed of four wooden jars, perfume bottle, and a big rosary. The rosary must be rolled around the two big jars (with the sandalwood and mahleb).
The two families gather, each brings their inherited traditional set of guirtik and the ritual starts: “Two wise and respected women – not crazy and talkative like myself, adds laughing Salma AlAssal- have to start to untie the rosary, dip it seven times in milk (in the 3rd small jar) in a synchronized moves and then give it to the groom to wear it with a whale bone, an original silver coin of Queen Victoria, and a blue stone around his wrest.” Then the groom has to sprinkle guests with perfume to announce the end of the ritual.
In old times, an expert woman has to massage the groom with oils and special perfumes for this occasion but with time people gave up this ritual. After this ritual, the wedding is certainly finalised, yet the bride stays at her family’s house.
Day five, six and seven:
Dancing , dancing, and more dancing! Here comes the importance of Set Salma, who starts to prepare the bride to play her role during the wedding ceremony at least 15 days before the wedding. The young girl has to dance at least 30 dances for the groom, wearing only her red dress on bare skin and beneath a chastity belt with chain stitches (this description is based on just hearing, need to be confirmed). If she changes dresses, she has to dance at least 20 dances by dress, and this is how the singer, trainer and wedding organizer get paid (by dress). During her dazzling and difficult dancing, if the bride falls down and the groom doesn’t catch her, he has to pay extra money for the singer for each time his bride falls. Of course a strategic felling down is always prearranged between the singer and the bride.
The groom till now is not allowed to touch his lady, unless he executes the last ritual : he has to cut off seven chain stitches and throw them on girls, the one who is touched by the small chains will be soon married (it is similar to the “throwing the flower bouquet” in western weddings). Today, young ladies wear the chastity belt not on her bare skin but on her white western dress. The red dress is kept for the 2nd day. “My grandmother swore to me that by the old days, the groom didn’t touch his bride but after 40 days of festivity”, adds Salma laughing.