Monthly Archives: May 2013

Golden Links: Tourism Prospects in Sudan,The Northern State

The Northern State

The Northern State of Sudan was the cradle of many Nubian Kingdoms and civilizations. It has a wealth of historical monuments including Pyramids, graveyards and relics of old communities that attract tourists.
Towards boosting tourism in the state the Dams unit in the city of Meroe set up a tourist resort hotel or what is known as Meroe tourist village on 23 acres, in an area as wide as that of the former Meroe administrative center, which includes irrigated orchards and the home of the famous Jackson Pasha the General Governor of the administrative unit. The ownership of the village has turned to the “Mada” governmental company that runs the village now.
The village is located in a strategic place in the city of Meroe on the western bank of the Nile, 400 km north of Omdurman, along the “Sheriyan Shamal” road.
The Village, where the Merowe Dam is located 40 kilometers south of it, lies among the biggest tourist attractions of the Northern State, like: Gebel Barkal, the pyramids of Nuri and the historical Koru Graveyard.
The tourist village consists of hotel units in the form of two storey Villas, 4 small size Villas, each containing 6 rooms and there are 6 big Villas each one with 10 rooms, including 8 rooms as en suite wings.
The tourist village is also equipped with meeting rooms which can accommodate up to 200 people, and supplemented with two small halls.
The village contains a historical museum that displays the civilization of the old Kingdoms of Kush and Napta, a restaurant equipped with 3 Dining rooms in addition to a health club that contains an under construction gym, a swimming pool, steam baths, a sauna and a mosque beneath which is located a supermarket.
There are a number of projects under construction containing a range of sports fields, one floor villas facing the Nile River, and children playgrounds including a variety of Games, and a zoo. But what is most important of all is a project for the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings, offices and houses that were constructed during the British and Egyptian rule of Sudan.

By A. S. Alkoronki – GMS


Golden Links: Tourism Prospects in Sudan, The River Nile State

The River Nile State
The River Nile State in the North of Sudan organized a “Tourism and Shopping Festival” for nearly the whole month of last January 2013.
Shendi Locality hosted the festival from the third to the 31st of January. The Festival was organized within the framework of the celebrations of the country’s anniversary of the 57th Independence Day. The festival came under the banner (An ancient civilization… A Source of values), under the auspices of Lt. Gen. Hadi Abdullah the River Nile State Governor.
The festival included tourism, heritage exhibitions, shopping, and cultural nights. It also included sports activities such as camels racing, and martial arts.
The festival was intended to boost internal and external tourism, Promote local products and boost investment in the state.
This festival was run under the new look, in Sudan, to tourism as a source of income and trade. It can boost the tottering economy of the country and add a lot to solve hard currency problems. The River Nile State is one of the richest States of Sudan in Tourism potentials. The State is particularly rich in historical Sites of Ancient Civilisations especially the sites of the Merowetic Period (593 -350 B.C.)
The Old Meroe city, the capital of Kush Kingdom, which was situated near Shendi town of today (now called Bejrawiya), on the eastern side of the River Nile, is one of The River Nile State most attractive places where there are many pyramids that serve as the main attraction for tourists. The place was famous for known names of kings and Queens like Hatshepsut and Kandaka.
Other historical sites are also situated not far away to the south east in Naqaa and Mosawarat that are famous for the Lion’s Temple and Abadamak. To the south of Shendi Bannaga historical sites also attract visitors.

By A. S. Alkoronki – GMS

Beit Al-Khalifa Museum in Omdurman

Beit Al-Khalifa, the Khalifa House Museum, was built in 1887 in Omdurman city, which is rich with the historical sites that date back to the Mahadist State. The House was a home to Abdu-allah Al-Ta’eshy, the successor of Imam Muhamed Ahmed Al-Mahdi who led a revolution against the condominium rule in Sudan in 1881. The House was transferred to a museum in 1928. It contains many antiquities belonging to the pre-Mahadist and Mahadist eras

Just a few minutes walk south of Shuhada Square in Omdurman is the Khalifa’s House, which is now a small museum. The low mud-brick building doesn’t look much from the outside, but it is surprisingly large inside and contains several interesting exhibits such as the first car in Sudan, the first printing press in Sudan, and the life history of the Mahid.

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Why Not Tavel To Sudan

The majority of websites I came across regarding travel to Sudan all seemed to describe it as dangerous, but my curiosity was strong enough that it led me to explore the country anyway. I was interested in the adventures I’d come across and what treasures I’d find in Sudan that where unknown to the rest of the world. At the time of my trip Sudan had been constantly in the headlines for its multiple wars in the south and west in Darfur. While these tragedies are very real, many people didn’t realize that before its split Sudan was the largest country in Africa. So while parts of Sudan may be at war other parts are relatively calm. One Sudanese man who lived in the capital compared the situation to an American living in a normal life in New York but seeing wild fires in California or hearing about Hurricane Katrina on TV.
Sudan Links

Sudan - Downtown KhartoumSudan - Khartoum School Children
The capital of Sudan is called Khartoum and is located near the center of the country. Khartoum itself has about 2 million people, while the entire surrounding area totals about 8 million inhabitants. On the upper left is a photo of downtown Khartoum, on the right are some students that were more that happy to have their photo taken. All the Sudanese I came across in Sudan were friendly, but there was one guy who in his 20s that seemed to be stalking me for a short bit and I got the vibe he didn’t like me because I was a foreigner, but maybe he was just to shy to say hello.
Sudan - Sudanese Tribal MaskSudan - Mosque in Khartoum
Sudan is a unique country as it is a mix of Arabic and African culture with an Islamic faith. On the left is a face mask created by one of Sudan’s many tribes seen in a Khartoum museum. The center photo is a typical scene that you would expect to see in Africa and the middle east, on the right is a mosque in Khartoum. I was surprised to see occasional Sudanese Christians walking the city and even a large cathedral in Khartoum that seemed to get along peacefully. Since I’ve not lived here in Sudan it’s too difficult to judge the true struggles of minorities and learn the politics, but on a travelers level the Christians Sudanese I saw seemed to be treated with respect and enjoy their life here in Khartoum.
Sudan - Sudanese Village PeopleSudan - Sudanese Man Reading A Book
Above are some photos of people in Sudan. The majority of the people from Sudan are black, with a small percentage in the north having a more middle easterner look. On the left is a photo of some people in a market in a village outside Khartoum. I’m not sure if they were happy that I took their photo with the exception of the smiling guy, but the guy on the right was too involved in his book to even notice.
Sudan - Where the White And Blue Niles Meet in KhartoumSudan - Nile River Hut
Sudan - Mud Brick LayingThe Nile river is the longest river in the world, and begins as the blue Nile in Ethiopia and the white Nile in Uganda. Sudan’s capital of Khartoum was built along the Nile River where a constant supply of water made life possible in the otherwise dry and hot environment. It is here in Khartoum, where both the blue and white Niles meet and continue north to Egypt as one river. On the upper left is a photo of the Niles meeting, with the white Nile coming in from the left and the blue Nile coming in from the right side of the photo. To get a real shot of the Niles meeting I would need to take an aerial photograph or at least a high vantage point. The Nile River is just as important to the people of Sudan today as it was thousands of years ago. On the left, people take rich soil from the banks of the Nile to create bricks to build homes. Above is a photo of a small hut where wood carvings and even a boat are being built using the trees and plants that grow along the river.
Sudan - Nile River CrossingSudan - Nile River Crossing
These pictures was taken farther south from Khartoum, but you can see that even today in modern times the Nile creates a challenge for people trying to travel across the country. Above are photos of cars and people being transported back and forth across the Blue Nile. Even in the capital, I had to take a small boat to cross one portion of the Nile since at the time of my visit a very large bridge nearby was still under construction. It looked about halfway completed and I think it will be the largest bridge in Khartoum once it’s completed.
Sudan - Omurdan's Suq MarketSudan - Omurdan's Suq Market Spices
Just outside of Khartoum is the city of Omdurman, what could be considered the cultural capital of the country. There are many things to see in this city, but the Suq of Omdurman is by far the most interesting place I came across. The Suq of Omdurman is essentially the country’s main market place, but its size and variety make it stand out from others that I have been to in various nations. The Suq is made up of a maze of large alleys and corridors each with its own theme. I came across one selling toys, a meat market, leather market, and electronics.
Sudan - Omurdan's Suq Market ShoesSudan - Omurdan's Suq Market Meat
I think what really made the Suq interesting was how they often stacked so many of their goods in such a small area. I passed by some alleys that had mountains of products on the street or walls that were completely covered with shoes and sandals while other goods where tied to the ceiling. Above is a photo of the shoe and sandal section and meat market, below you can see the inside of two of the shops in the Suq.
Sudan - Omurdan's Suq Market LampsSudan - Omduran - Suq - Jewels & Necklaces
Sudan - Port Sudan Sailing ShipSudan - Port Sudan Cargo Ship
The next largest city after Khartoum and Omdurman is Port Sudan located on the Red Sea in the north eastern part of the country. This was the only place I saw any other tourists in Sudan, apparently its easier to visit Port Sudan from Egypt with a special visa. With this type of visa you can not leave Port Sudan or travel to Khartoum. I found Port Sudan to be a more attractive city than Khartoum, but other than the sea there didn’t seem to be much to the city itself. Above are photos of ships in port, on the left a sailing ship, on the right a cargo ship.
Sudan - Red Sea Diving Ship Wreck DeckSudan - Red Sea Diving Ship Wreck Deck
I was pretty surprised to find that scuba diving was available in Port Sudan. A golden rule of diving is to never go alone, but who I thought would be my diving partner instead drove me 40 minutes into the sea in a speed boat and told me he would be fishing. I didn’t even remember how to put on some of my scuba gear so I wasn’t really enthusiastic about jumping in the water solo but I had no choice. I had never done any wreck diving or anything of the sort, but as I descended in the water I found a sunken ship. Since this was my first time doing a wreck type of dive I found it to be a pretty eerie experience swimming around in the dark alone even though I never went more than 40 feet from the surface. We had an overcast the day of my dive and you lose light quickly as you descend making you feel deeper than you really are. Above are photos from the ship’s deck and another area surrounded by dozens of fish acting as a artificial reef for the coral
Sudan - Red Sea - Sohal TangSudan - Red Sea - Sohal Tang
I saw many species of beautiful fish while diving in Sudan. Unfortunately I brought with me a very cheap scuba camera, and as a result only a few photos from the surface came out. I’m happy with these surrounding photos, but they fail to show all the colorful species I came across and definitely weren’t the highlight of my dive. The species of the two fish above are known as the Sohal Tang; below on the right is a parrot fish, on the left is a puffer fish. Most of the fish I saw in Sudan I came across in other parts of the world as well.
Sudan - Red Sea Parrot FishSudan - Red Sea Parrot Fish
Sudan - Rock PileSudan - Sand Dunes
Many people are surprised to know that not only are there pyramids in Sudan, but Sudan actually has more of them than Egypt! When the ancient Egyptians built their kingdoms, their borders actually spread into northern Sudan. The pyramids above are from an area known as the Meroe Sites, dozens of pyramids of a slightly different design than Egypt’s. Meroe sites are Sudan’s Gaza, but there are several other locations along the Nile River that have dozens of more pyramid sites in Sudan, sadly there is just never enough time to do everything!
Sudan - Sand MelonSudan - Sand Falls
I found the plant on the upper left to be very unique, that it could grow directly out of sand and somehow still produce fruits. This plant wasn’t by itself in the desert, but there were dozens more of the same species living in the dunes. On the right is a waterfall of sand flowing down some rocks due to strong winds in the desert.
Sudan - Meroe Site
Many people are surprised to know that not only are there pyramids in Sudan, but Sudan actually has more of them than Egypt! When the ancient Egyptians built their kingdoms, their borders actually spread into northern Sudan. The pyramids above are from an area known as the Meroe Sites, dozens of pyramids of a slightly different design than Egypt’s. Meroe sites are Sudan’s Gaza, but there are several other locations along the Nile River that have dozens of more pyramid sites in Sudan, sadly there is just never enough time to do everything!
Sudan - Meroe PyramidSudan - Reconstructed Meroe Pyramid
Here are some close ups of the pyramids of the Meroe Sites. Both pyramids above have main entrances to the chambers instead of the hidden ones that are used in Egypt’s pyramids. On the left is an ancient pyramid the way it was found, notice how high the sand dunes have climbed on the right hand side of the pyramid compared to the left. The small pyramid on the right, was reconstructed the way they were expected to look thousands of years ago.
Sudan - Meroe PyramidSudan - Meroe Damaged Pyramid
Many of the pyramids here have been damaged by the harsh desert and mostly by time itself. On the left is a pyramid that has lost its top but is in otherwise decent shape. The pyramid on the right has almost been reduced to a pile of large bricks.
Sudan - Meroe Site HieroglyphicsSudan - Meroe Site Hieroglyphics
These photos were taken from both the inside and outside of the pyramids showing some drawings and hieroglyphics. The right photo is script taken from the inside of one of the tombs, on the left is a drawing that has survived on the entrance of another one of the pyramids.
Sudan - HouseSudan - House Inside
Aside from scuba diving in the Red Sea and exploring the Sudanese pyramids in the north, another adventure I did in Sudan was take a road trip south of the capital. I got the opportunity to visit a Sudanese home in a random village as seen on the left. I was surprised how modern the inside of the home was. The pretty much have everything you’d expect in any other house, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, electricity, and even a TV. The only thing the house lacked was running water, and maybe equally important for some people, no internet.
Sudan - George Kashouh with Sudanese FamilySudan - Sudanese Dinner
On the left is myself visiting one of the Sudanese families a few hours south of Khartoum. They were some of the nicest and most hospitable people I have ever met! I was invited to dinner and to rest in their home as if it was mine and since there are no hotels south of Khartoum, I even ended up spending the night here. On the right is a photo of their dinner, many different foods served with bread that is shared with everyone at the table, notice there is no silverware or individual plates. You mostly eat with your hands and share food from the same bowls.
Sudan - Mud HouseSudan - Grass Hut
Other homes in Sudan have the more tribal look and so I expected the people to have tribal beliefs as well, but they still spoke Arabic as their primary language, and every few villages had its own mosque. On the left is a home made out of mud, on the right is one made out of straw. Most of these homes weren’t as nice as the one I had stayed in and lack electricity, but every occasional hut would have a power line to it.
Sudan - Rich SoilSudan - Savannah
As I continued further south into the country, the terrain slowly changed from the dry arid land to a dark rich soil. On the left you can see some of the richer soil which makes it much easier to grow crops, and many villagers of course use this to their advantage. Finally this rich soil gave way to the African Savannah as seen to the right. One of the great things about road trips is watching the terrain gradually transform.
Sudan - Tribal WomenSudan - Villagers Getting Water
Since I didn’t go to the west or extreme south, this was the only part of Sudan where I saw real tribal people. I asked my driver who was a native Sudanese born and raised in Khartoum which tribe these people were from. He responded by simply saying these people are from Africa, suggesting this part of Sudan was a completely different world for him. On the left are tribal women walking through the Savannah carrying food on their heads. The photo to the right is of villagers gathering water from a dried out river.
Sudan - Man on CamelSudan - Tea Stand & Forture TellerHere are some more villagers from the eastern part of Sudan. On the left is a man riding a camel with a make shift saddle and is also carrying wood to use as fuel. On the right is a woman and her daughter selling tea by the road, a very common sight in Sudan. She was also a fortune teller so I asked if I’d be successful in climbing the 7 summits. Despite being so far from the ocean she pulled out a handful of seashells and predicted my success with the 7 summits. I’ll probably need about a decade to finally find out if she was right.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - EntranceSudan - Dinder National Park - Museum
Finally after two days of driving I reached my destination; one of Sudan’s national parks! This one is known by the name of Dinder, and I could find almost no information about it online before getting to Sudan. As a matter of fact, during the whole trip south my driver and I had no idea what we would come across or where we might stay. One night on the way towards Dinder we even slept in Sudanese military base because there were no hotels. I was given a cot and shared a room with some soldiers who placed big fans in front of us to keep the annoying mosquitoes away at night. The shower was a rusted out shack with no electricity and had a gigantic lizard that ran away after I shined my flashlight on it. When arriving to the national park, imagine how surprised we were to find out that they had a small museum, a small restaurant with a cook, and several rooms to stay in. While back on the military base, a Sudanese colonel had just gotten married and asked if he could join us for his honeymoon, so other than the couple, my driver and me, we had the whole place to ourselves.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - Wrecked PlaneSudan - Dinder National Park - Soldier
Travel in this region can be considered dangerous, so I was required to have an escort by the Sudanese military. On the left is a plane that has crashed into Dinder forest. On the right is a Sudanese soldier that was traveling with me from the military base outside the park. The soldier directed my driver on how to get to Dinder, and choose so many random turns in the Savannah that I seriously thought he was making them up as we went. Somehow he knew where he was going and the terrain changed again from Savannah to forest like the trees below.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - Orange TreeSudan - Dinder National Park - Green Tree Branch
Sudan - Dinder National Park - BaboonSudan - Dinder National Park - Warthogs
Here are some wildlife photos from Sudan. If I had a better lens I could have made a photo gallery of some great close ups. In Sudan I found it very difficult to get close to wildlife here unlike other African countries. On the left is a large baboon, on the right is a cautious family of warthogs that rarely see people.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - River Dried OutSudan - Dinder National Park - Dead Fish
On the left is Dinder River, and at this time of year it runs dry. During the rainy season, I was told this whole area floods with rushing water. On the right is a fish that died because it lacked the intelligence to jump out of the puddle and into the main pool that was just a foot away when the water receded during the dry season.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - GazellesSudan - Dinder National Park - Lion Paw Print
It seems that I came across three species of antelope and gazelle while at Dinder. On the left is a photo of two of them before they ran away. Unlike southern and eastern Africa, the animals here are not accustomed to visitors and usually run at the sight of the vehicle even if you’re pretty far away. On the right is a foot print of a large lion that must have passed just a day ago.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - Dead BuckSudan - Dinder National Park - Vultures
Here you can see a dead buck, one of the easier animals to photograph in Dinder national park. On the right are some large vultures patiently waiting for their next meal. The bottom two photos show some hawks that I remember from Tanzania as well. Like the other animals here these hawks would fly away if I approached them on the ground. The hawks in Tanzania were so bold they’d take food from your hands.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - HawkSudan - Dinder National Park - Butterfly
Sudan - Dinder National Park - ButterflySudan - Dinder National Park - Millipedes
Above is a butterfly and some giant millipedes. I didn’t come across any millipedes during a long hike I did through the forest, then suddenly around a pool of water there were dozens of them, many mating like above.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - Bee Eater BirdsSudan - Dinder National Park - Weaver Bird's Nest
The colorful bird species on the left are called little bee eaters and they were among many other of its species in a large tree. On the right is what I had assumed to be the bee eater bird’s nest, but it actually belongs to weaver birds, who weren’t home at the time.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - Guinea FowlSudan - Dinder National Park - Strange Melon
The bird species on the left are known as Guinea Fowl, I’ve seen these all the way at the bottom of Africa in Krugger Park. On the right is a type of fruit found on a tree, it looks exactly like the one I found in the Sahara Desert!
Sudan - Dinder National Park - SoldierSudan - Dinder National Park - Huge Monitor Lizard
While hiking I saw a splash in the water and barely caught this giant monitor lizard before it disappeared into the vegetation. On the left is another one of the soldiers with me, carrying his AK-47 in case an animal turns violent.
Sudan - Dinder National Park - GrasslandsSudan - Dinder National Park - Palms during Sunset
Here is some beauty of Dinder, the green grass and trees to the left where growing next to a large swamp we came across. On the right is the sun setting among the palm trees. A trip to Sudan is definitely for the adventurous!

‘Like water’: A tribute to legendary Sudanese singer Mohammed Wardi

One of Africa’s most celebrated singers, Mohammed Wardi, died Saturday at the age of 79, leaving behind a rich legacy of musical innovation that extended beyond the borders of his native Sudan.

Wardi, who was once known as the continent’s “first singer,” produced nearly 300 songs over his five-decade career. He captivated Sudanese listeners of all ages and was described in his home country as the singer with the “golden throat.”

The septuagenarian singer was born in the Nubian area in northern Sudan on 19 July 1932, at a time when Sudan was governed by the Anglo-Egyptian pact, which placed Sudan under the rule of both the British Empire and the government in Cairo.

Though he first worked as a teacher, he resigned and decided in 1957 to pursue a career singing at the national radio service.

At the time, the national radio station “Here is Omdurman” was struggling to find a way to express both the individual character and plurality of the nation. The radio service, first established by the Brits in 1940 and named for a turn-of-the-century battle between British and Sudanese forces, witnessed a major transformation in the late 1950s.

It transformed from being a mouthpiece for the colonial rulers to a voice of Sudanese nationalistic aspirations, with Wardi’s songs as the main soundtrack.

In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh in April 2005, Wardi recalled his first big break with the Sudanese radio.

A program called “All Over Sudan” had just started airing. Wardi applied for an audition and was accepted as a professional singer on the radio soon after.

In the following years, Wardi balanced tradition and innovation in his singing. He used both Western and traditional Sudanese instruments like the Nubian tanbur (a long-necked string instrument with a half-spherical body). He also sang in his native Nubian dialect, which greatly increased his popularity among his fellow Nubians.

Wardi, along with his contemporary, leading singer Sayed Khalifa (1931–2001), is widely considered to have been pivotal in developing the modern Sudanese singing scene in the 1960s. Both singers adopted a similar approach, using themes from Sudanese daily life, engaging with philosophical notions of freedom and national independence and conveying their passionate love for their homeland.

But Wardi’s songs were more politically oriented. He was a strong opponent of the despotic regime of General Ibrahim Abboud, who came to power following the 1959 coup d’etat, and was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1964, known as Sudan’s October 1964 revolution.

The uprising was the first in Arab modern history in which people revolted against a national president and called for democracy. Wardi commemorated the uprising in his well-known song, “The Green October.” He sang:

“Green October, with your name the land sings/ The fields burst into wheat, promise and hopes/ The treasures were opened in the ground, calling/ With your name the people triumphed/ The wall of the prison was broken”

Like Khalifa, Wardi initially celebrated the new rule of General Gaafar Numeri, who seized power after another military coup d’etat in 1969. However, Sudanese commentators say that Wardi hailed the early socialist policies of the Numeri regime, and not its attack on civilian rule that followed.

In fact, Wardi opposed Numeri’s repressive measures against political forces in Sudan. He sang a poem written by poet Omar Aldosh called “Banadeeha” (“I’m Calling on Her”) that subtly criticizes Numeri, saying that Sudan was lost during his reign, as shown in the following verses.

“When she misses our date/ I look for her in history/ I ask the forefathers about her/ I ask the future that will come after many years”

Wardi also sang a famous poem by Mubarak Basheer, entitled “The Meeting of the Faithful,” in which he talks about some of Sudan’s national heroes in its recent history.

“The Meeting of the Faithful” went as follows:

“Today, we remember all the martyrs/ Everyone who wrote a sentence, in history, with blood/ Today, we remember all the honorable people/ Everyone who shouted against injustice.”

Sudanese opposition groups received this song as a clear statement against Numeri.

Khalifa, on the other hand, maintained good relations with Numeri, and continued to sing in support of the military dictator. In the 1960s and 1970s, Khalifa gained fame because of his strong connections in Cairo, where he studied at the Arab Music Institute. He is believed to be the first Sudanese to pursue formal academic study of music. Khalifa also appeared in Egyptian movies, singing his well-known “Mambo al-Sudani” (“The Sudanese Mambo”).

Unlike Khalifa, Wardi had received no formal training in music. But, by singing authentically Nubian songs, he became an unparalleled star in the Nubian communities in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.

Egypt’s famous Nubian singer, Mohamed Mounir, sang Wardi’s “Wust al-Dayra” (“The Middle of the Circle”) on his 1987 album, making the song its cover. Mounir’s rendition achieved major success but with little attribution to Wardi.

Following the fall of Numeri in the 1985 popular uprising, the Sudanese music scene experienced a new renaissance, with artists reemphasizing, once more, the need for a pluralistic but unified Sudan. Wardi was selected as the head of the Sudanese Musicians Union. Wardi and Khalifa still led the music scene, but other young voices started to emerge, such as the much-celebrated Mostafa Sayed Ahmed and Sharhabeel.

The singers had proven that they could perform under difficult circumstances and dictatorships. But after Islamists seized power in the third coup d’etat in Sudan’s history in 1989, attacks on music concerts and secular cultural life reached their climax.

After the coup, the ruling National Islamic Front proved to be ruthless authority, chasing singers, banning women from traditional dancing, and mocking the music industry. The National Islamic Front threatened Wardi for his nationalistic songs. Wardi remained silent for a while, but emerged again, performing in defiance some of his most political songs.

Later, he fled to Egypt, as government persecution escalated. Wardi and Khalifa were among many Sudanese artists who came to Cairo as anti-arts propaganda in Sudan reached its peak, when an extremist killed singer Khojali Osman in 1994.

Wardi, who was in exile at the time, responded to the incident, saying, “Art is like water: You can’t seal off its source. It will trickle inexorably through the rocks to emerge in a new spring somewhere else.”

World Poetry Day: Performance Poetry in Khartoum

In the celebration of World Poetry Day, poet Francesca Beard writes about her visit to Khartoum with the British Council Sudan in January 2013 and shared two poems from her visit.

London-based poet Francesca Beard performs in Khartoum (image credit: Mohamed Altoum)

London-based poet Francesca Beard performs in Khartoum (image credit: Mohamed Altoum)

I’m a poet who writes for performance. If you’ve never been part of a poetry performance, it feels like theatre or storytelling. It has movement, sound and visuals. It often involves music. It can be quite multi-media, but at its core, performance poetry is one of the simplest art forms. All you need is someone to speak and someone to listen. It’s our shared and ancient oral tradition. Our cross-cultural connection to poetry is, for me, an important part of what makes us human.

In January this year, I went out to visit the British Council in Khartoum, Sudan, where the deep waters of the swift-flowing Blue Nile meet the wide, slow, clay-filled waters of the White Nile, and many African cultures meet together under Islam. I was there to put on a performance poetry event with a group called Makaan Arts and Culture.

Makaan Arts is a group that believes in effecting positive social change through art. I am developing a project called ‘Storyverse’, a new kind of do-it-yourself interactive poetry event that supports people to make and share stories that matter.

Together with 30 local poets and writers, many of them students, we came up with the title ‘Identity, Nation, Women’.

Our aim was to use our own lives and voices in order to ask the audience to think about and share their stories and lives with us. We ended with an improvised poem which the audience took part in, everyone contributing a line.

The show was funny, moving, political and personal. It featured live interactive illustrations, African drumming and performance art with visual projections.

This once-in-a-lifetime event allowed the audience to be part of that show in a way that can’t be repeated. But I will never forget it.

The audience at the Khartoum poetry reading (image credit Mohamed Altoum)

I feel very lucky to work with the British Council, to travel to different places and exchange work with different people.

I feel very lucky to perform in Britain, mixing with cultures from all over the world. In terms of being transported to different places and experiencing different cultures, poetry is the most powerful and simple way I’ve found to connect.

Each time I share my world or someone else’s, by reading or listening to a poem, the world gets bigger.

Here are two poems I wrote in Khartoum, with thanks to Tilal Salih and friends at the British Council, Khartoum and Mustafa Khogali and friends at Makaan Arts and Culture.

I Speak the Language

I speak the language of let it be to Inshallah.
I speak the language of fresh lime to shorba.
I speak the language of crescents to the moon.
I speak the language of crossroads to Khartoum.

I speak the language of the riverbank to sweet tea.
I speak the language of freedom to walking at midnight around an unknown city.
I speak the language of poems in flight to calligraphy.
I speak the language of drawing boards to democracy.

I speak the language of dust to the wind.
I speak the language of skinny cats to the street bins.
I speak the language of Shakespeare to cab drivers.
I speak the language of rappers’ prayers to their mothers.

I speak the language of Arabia to Africa Street.
I speak the language of spoken word to talking-drum beats.
I speak the language of diversity to survival.
I speak the languages of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Kenya,  Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan to the Nile.

During the devising process for the show, I gave the group the prompt ‘Democracy’ and asked them to respond with one line.

We went round the circle and heard – ‘Democracy – a lie’, ‘a scam’, ‘a piece of rotten meat they sell and force us to swallow’ … so on and on, until the last participant, tall and thin, said mournfully, ‘No one knows how beautiful you are.’

He was talking about democracy, but it seemed as though he was referring to all of us, about ourselves and each other. So I gave this poem, about my extraordinary and enlightening time in Khartoum, that title.

No-one Knows How Beautiful You Are

Before I flew, I googled
‘Sudan’ ‘dress code’ ‘customs’,
Read how women get flogged
For daring to wear trousers.
In a floor-length orange kaftan,
Courtesy of the ’70s and my mum,
I climb shotgun into a dust-covered,
Immaculately interiored sedan.
The taxi driver is an old man,
He asks if I work for the UN.
‘I’m a poet’ I tell him.
In England, in my experience,
People often react to this with scorn.
One guest at a wedding thought I’d said pirate.
Her hostility was so in line with the usual response,
It took a full five minute argument
Before we discovered she’d heard me wrong.
Even then, her face barely stood down.
But the taxi driver exclaims ‘Poet!’
Like I’d said ‘Pediatrician’ or ‘Pastry chef’.
He asks what kind of poetry, says he himself
Writes verse, is inspired by nature,
Shakespeare and the Koran.
He asks where I come from.
I don’t have a simple answer to that question,
But say I live in London.
He expresses polite appreciation for
Various colonial legacies, the postal service,
The drains, the education system,
Which he grew up in.
He asks me if Khartoum is as I expected?
I say, I’ve learnt a couple of things –
I tell him the students I work with hate the word
Democracy, describe hypocrisy, the shiny scab,
Sealing in corruption, a barrier to healing.
The taxi driver sighs and smiles.
‘This Government does not like dissent,
They do not understand,
To be strong, they need strong opponents’.
He negotiates an anarchic roundabout,
The indicator tocks, a dialectic metronome.
‘And the other thing you learnt?’ he asks.
‘Don’t believe everything you read on the internet’.
I walk into the workshop, kaftan flowing.
Inside, participants wait, heads bent to smart phones.
All the girls wrapped tight in skinny jeans.

Read more about Francesca’s visit to Sudan.