By Khalid Hamid
Introduction by Intisar Soghayroun
The Sudan is one of the largest countries in Africa, with an area of 1.5 million square km and population more than 35,000,000. Its people are of various ethnic origins, cultures, traditions and religious beliefs. Its fertile agricultural lands support the growing of many crops from sugar to acacia trees while the Blue and White Niles join to provide the necessary water. Minerals are present in abundance. Geographically 30% of its land is desert or semis desert, and much of the rest is classified as dry land (poor Savanna ).
The country has its long and eventful history. The relics so far discovered pushed its history back to about 300,000 years ago. It has a hugely impressive archaeological heritage, but one that still relatively unrecognized, especially as compared to its neighbor Egypt. It acted as a bridge between the Mediterranean coast and sub Saharan Africa, and once the home of the powerful kingdom of Kush. The country contains thousands of ancient sites including several great urban and religious centers. This is beside Petrified forests.
This book is an attempt to give a panoramic survey of people, culture and nature by lens of a skilled well known water color artist and professional photographer. Between the two covers we are trying not to put everything about Sudan, but glimpses of what our visitor is not expected to find, see and enjoy in this remarkable and vivid country. For a visitor it is largely unknown place with so many things to discover and enjoy.
The Sahara is so vast that it is difficult to say where it begins and where it ends, this fact could be observed in Sudan. To travel through the Sahara is to go back in time, to man’s origin and some of the first works. Thousands of pictures and murals have been painted or engraved on rock walls. It is an open archive or registry that narrates human experience thousands of years ago, their feelings can be felt in these depictions.(Plates……). “ No one who has journeyed deep into the special world that is the desert is left untouched by the experience” ( Brandily 2004). One can watch different colors of sunset on earth which is well observed and reflected in this work (Plates…..). Such majestic beauty, emotions will be engraved on the memory forever.
In the middle of this vastness the architecture of ages will be encountered. The landscape of sand, rock, and light shaped over geological ages which include vast area beside Sudan that extends about 3400 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Despite this vastness, the amount of water it carries the Nile hardly succeeds in making its way along its course, but reinforced by its confluence with the Blue Nile at Khartoum survives the desert. The Nile crosses 4150 miles about 6700 km from Burundi to the Mediterranean. The Blue Nile rises in Ethiopia and joins forces with the White Nile whose source is in Burundi. The two whose confluence is in Sudan became the Nile. (plates…)
Across the Sahara there are traditional methods of pumping water from wells, vary from region to region. At most artesian wells, which tap ground water close to surface, animal drive the mechanism of buckets that brings out the water. The shdouf and the Saqia are lifting water techniques. The saquia is a simple animal driven mechanism for raising irrigation water which has been introduced more than 2000 years ago. (plates….).
The nomads are an important element to be included in this volume. They sometimes ignore state borders but nevertheless they were integrated into the new states. They as well ignore national borders drawn by colonial power. The country with its wide open territories has been and still open to human and animal migration since time immemorial. The people of present Sudan are a homogenous blending of this human movement. (Pates….)
The Sudan people are immensely welcoming, travelers are welcomed and helped. They are known for their spontaneous hospitality. This is not an overstatement to say that visitors never get Sudan out of their system, out of their blood and continually return and maintain close relationship with their Sudanese friends and the country as a whole.
Pottery production and the potter’s craft have a long history in the Sudan beginning at least 10,000 years ago. It is not difficult to find a district in this country where the tradition of pottery making have been practically unbroken over this enormous span of time.
While the Nubian society was by no means matriarchal there can be no doubt that queens enjoyed an unusually high place both as consort and as dowagers. They figure prominently in many royal inscriptions and reliefs , and it is evident that they often acted as counselors, and sometimes as regents, for their sons. The wealth and prominence of queens’ tombs in the Nubian royal cemeteries are further testimony to their high status. It must have been the prestige and behind the scenes power enjoyed by the Nubian queens which gave rise to the roman tradition that Kush was governed by a hereditary line of female rulers, all named Candace. The role played by these queens gives the present day Sudanese females the power to participate in public life and to acquire rights not acquired by their counterparts even in the most developed countries. On the other side the women in the rural areas are the center of life the pivot of everyday activities; they grow plants, build and paint their home, collect wood for fuel and cooking.(plates…..)
The beauty of the recent history art and architecture are well observed in this book. It is a heritage that is threatened by many factors. Unawareness of people of its beauty and its importance as part of the history of the country is the main factor which leads to many actions that affect the buildings. They are either dismantled to build new skyscrapers or modified to create more rooms or insert air conditions..etc.(plates…..)
In this alphabet of up-close and personal stories you will discover an unfolding of the Sudanese people and their culture, which in many ways is exotic compared to ours and in other ways not very different at all . . . Now I invite you . . . to experience rare and authentic stories written from inside a country where not many Westerners are permitted to reside for an extended period of time and thus very few receive invitations into the homes, mosques, and hearts of the Sudanese as I did.
As the hot wind whips through the camel market I think, This is typical for Sudan. A hot wind always blows. It feels as if someone opened a door to a blast furnace, and I’m standing directly in front of that furnace right now. And yet, I never see tempers rise in Sudan. Incredible!( The problem is not available: 364 days in Sudan, by Anila Goldie 2014).
Nubian culture was distinctive due to its combination of Islamic and non-Islamic religious practices and orientations. Whereas the social life was marked by special gender relationship: due to the almost universal male labor migration, the women who were left behind in the villages, maintained Nubian traditions, cultures and languages, and achieved a high level of responsibility and independence. Their creativity in particular as expressed through the house decoration formed part of the women’s cultural identity and was at the same time a characteristic feature of Nubian settlements.
Wall paintings varied from village to village. The paintings spanned a wide spectrum of styles: ornamental, narratives and naturalistic. Plants and animals were the most common themes beside representation of daily objects.(G00-Grauer, A, pp1025-26, House decoration by Nubian women prior to 1964 resettlement, in The Fourth Cataract and beyond, proceedings of the 12th International conference for Nubian studies, Welsby and Anderson editors, British Museum London 2014)