Monday, November 17, 2008

My First Sudanese Wedding

I told you guys about being in the village up north and participating in wedding preparations which lasted days and days. So when a guy I knew from the local internet place (I go there to print and scan stuff) invited me to his sister's wedding, I was eager to see what the final product looked like.

It wasn't what I was expecting. In fact, except for the food - a plastic plate with fried fish, french fries and felafel - and the snapping of the fingers while waiving your hand in the air - the Sudanese symbol for celebration - it was extremely similar to every North American wedding I've been to. "This is Khartoum, not the village," I was reminded by one of the guys after expressing my surprise at how Western the wedding was.
The bride wore a glamorous white dress with lots of cleavage, all the men wore suits, the hall was huge and fancy, and the cake was layers high. There was a small zafa at the beginning (when the bridge and groom enter, accompanied by family and music) - nothing like Egyptian zafas though - and then the bride and groom were seated. People came endlessly to shake their hands. Dinner was served, while a live singer sang, and people danced. The men danced with so much life ... they did the chicken, they shook their shoulders, it was really fun. Then they threw me in the middle and said "Dance Egyptian style!" which I did for about 5 seconds before resuming my role behind the camera. Within two hours, the whole thing was over. No speeches, no belly dancers, and no dancing til all hours of the night (I think there's a rule in Sudan that parties can't last past 11pm)

I am told weddings weren't always like this though. In the olden days, the bride and groom wore traditional Sudanese clothes (galabia, etc) and to the backdrop of traditional Sudanese music, the woman would spit milk into the man's face - a good omen for the future. The ceremony is called the Jertuk, and is still done these days, in addition to the more modern wedding, but it didn't happen at this wedding, unfortunately.

Anyways, it was a great night. And it reminded me of how, in Senegal, I used to meet people in the most random places - internet cafes and hair salons - who went on to become great friends who enriched my cultural experience so much. Until now, I haven't really had that here, so hopefully these guys will introduce me to new sides of Sudan!


Umm Fatima said...

Love the quality of the pictures, Heba. Different from the typical fare on Sudan. Making friends in random places; being invited into their lives; appreciating the l'il blessings -- such is the joy of being a journalist, I think. Otherwise known as a curious adventurer.

sean said...

I hope there was at least some ululating!

I'm jealous, because I've always wanted to go to Sudan, but it's super difficult for me to get a visa (even with wasta). They always think I'm in the mukhabarat!

Heba Aly said...

who are you, sean? Do we know each other? Or is this my mother trying to be an anonymous commentator again?

sean said...

W ahlein fiki, ya Heba.

No, I'm afraid we don't know each other. I stumbled across your blog from the Pulitzer Center page, when I was looking at various "untold stories."

You're lucky, though, because my mom would never even look at my blog, much less sneakily leave incognito comments there.

Kizzie said...

Heba I agree with you, Sudan is impossible to understand and I'm telling you this as a Sudanese!
enjoy your time there. I love your articles, finally we are not represented as a bunch of helpless people!

biko said...

I liked your camera a lot and I wished to be like you, this work is very beautiful and I am graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts, I'm going under photography, drawing, Fine ... I liked this work

biko said...
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