Khartoum #2 - Sufi Dancing
Jun 10, 2005
I already mentioned that Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, is boring.... but it is really mind-crushingly dull. While in Addis, I met a NGO worker who had just departed Sudan after a two-year stint of working in Khartoum. He told me that there are only two things to do each week: Sufi dancing and Nubian wrestling, and very sadly they are both at exactly the same time.
I had hoped to somehow manage to catch them both, and since they are next to one another, it might be possible. But, I circled the neighborhood looking for the Nubian wrestling and never managed to find it. No complaints though.... the Sufi dancing really was amazing.
First of all the setting - they dance next to a small mosque in a dusty Sudanese graveyard. There's no grass in Sudanese graveyards, at least not in Northern Sudan. The gravestones stick up out of the flat dry dusty ground. It's disrespectful of me to say this, but honestly Sudanese graveyards remind me of old abandoned drive-through movie theaters with just the speakers on poles remaining sticking out of the asphalt, giving a very spooky appearance.
The biggest tourist event in town was hardly touristy. The crowd was made up of about 300 Sudanese and perhaps a dozen foreigners, most of whom had bused in from one of the major hotels. It's the biggest tourists event of the week, and there are only 10 tourists there. To make a wild guess, I'd say that there probably aren't more than 50 tourists at any given time in this entire country 4.5 times as big as France.
The dancing and the music weren't particularly memorable, but the dancers themselves were a sight to behold. One dancer had insane crazy eyes - it was impossible for me to tell if he was on heavy drugs, or in a deep spiritual trance. The other dancers were in amazing costumes - wild hats, and fantastic patchwork robes.
Crazy costumed dancers in the middle of a dusty graveyard. Khartoum itself might be dull, but the weekly Sufi dancing was certainly something worth seeing!
(Sad note - I took perhaps the best portraits I had ever taken at the Sufi dancing, only to later lose them to a hard-drive crash. I managed to reconstruct some of them from recovered thumbnails, but the detail is gone.)
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Those pictures are awesome... I'm sure I would have said.
Thanks man. :-)