Sudan: Cultural Tourism - A Treasure That Should Be Tappedanalysis By Mona Rahama
Khartoum — Tourism is a socioeconomic phenomenon that embodies a lot of functions such as beach tourism, adventure tourism (that includes mountaineering, water-skiing, skating and sledging), medical tourism, shopping and contemplation.
We can also speak about cultural tourism, in which Sudan has a vast potential that needs to be rediscovered and exploited.
About the latter, Sudanow has consulted Dr.Graham Abdul Gadir, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife.
He said Sudan can become a huge cultural tourist attraction, given its ethnic and cultural diversity.
Sudan is home to hundreds of ethnic communities, grouped into three entities: The Arab groups that live in Northern and Central regions, as well as parts of Eastern Sudan. Also we have the indigenous African groups that dwell in Southern Sudan and parts of Western Sudan. Then we have the Beja groups of Eastern Sudan.
These ethnolinguistic communities speak over a 100 languages. Arabic - the country's official language - has become a lingua franca among Sudanese (with some variations in accent of course).
Due to this tremendous ethnic and (accordingly cultural) variation, artistic performances and cultural practices vary a great deal. This cultural diversity can, all by itself, constitute an important tourist attraction as the tourist can come across lots of cultural activities and norms as he/she moves around the country.
Sudanese handicrafts had continued to attract the attention of tourists for centuries now. Amazing hides, ceramic, leaf and pumpkin works with their varied designs as one moves from one area to another, have always won the admiration of tourists who cherish them very much. These works have special and easily accessible markets. Tourists have fancy for many of these works, leather bags in particular. A small handmade leather bag can fetch $15 due to its beauty and durability.
Community sport activities are also of appeal to tourists. Wrestling contests of the Nuba ethnic group of Southern Kordufan has become so popular in other parts of Sudan that localities now allocate wide spaces for them where needed. The Nuba wrestling matches have attracted the Japanese embassy here that chose to organize contests with participation of Japanese wrestlers .
Horse racing is an established sport in Sudan, specially in Darfur, Western Sudan. According to UN statistics, Sudan is home to 1.7 million horses, the third Worldwide. All Darfuri major towns have horse race tracks that attract tourists very much. To date, Darfur provides Sudan's equestrian activity with the best highborn horses. In addition, Darfur horses are always present in official and popular celebrations and festivals.
Sudan is also unique in camel races organized on several occasions everywhere in the country. Camel races are present in wedding and other social ceremonies. Sudanese camels are high-breed Arab camels. The Bushari and the Annafi camels are two of the World's best camel breeds. Official camel races and contests are now held in Kasala, Abudlaig and New Halfa (Eastern Sudan), Addamar (Northern Sudan), Omdurman (Khartoum) and in many towns of Western Sudan. Some of these contests are attended by foreign nationals who keep to come to the country to watch them and buy the camels that attract their attention. The Sudanese Equestrian Union has managed to organize some camel racing contests in some Western countries, namely France , Germany and Switzerland , thus opening markets for Sudanese camels in Europe in addition to their already established markets in the Gulf Region.
Holidays and wedding festivals are opportune occasions for the display of Sudanese arts and foods that attract tourists the most. Religious festivals (the holiyyas) now attract visitors from many parts of the World who enjoy to take part in the religious sermons and songs. The dervish singing circles with their display of embroidered clothes, beads and dances appeal very much to tourists.
Harvest festivals of the Engasana ethnic group of the Blue Nile State represent an unusual tourist event with their different costumes, songs , music and dances. The waza dance with its varied musical instruments and tunes allows the tourists moments of extreme joy and tremendous knowledge about the great diversity treasured in that region.
Music-wise, Sudan is very rich and diverse. In the Nuba Mountains we have the rough karan dance where dancers hit the ground with their feet in a violent rhythm. The karan dance is different from the arda dance of the East where the sword and the shield are the main components . In both dances women with their flexible bodies and complementary accessories take part. In the East the songs glorify coffee and knighthood.
The Missairiyya tribes people of the central-west dance to the sounds of the Nuggara (a gigantic drum). On dancing occasions the Missairiyya sport attractively knit clothes. The Nuggara dance is different from the Dalaib dance of the North in that in the latter men line up in two rows with one or two women moving to and fro between the rows. Like other dances of Sudan, the Nuggara and the Dalaib dances were found to be very amazing to tourists.
All these Sudanese arts are culturally bound to ways of bread winning. We have the Huda'a, which is songs composed in glorification of camels. Some of these Huda'a songs imitate the camel serene and smooth movement.
This diverse dancing and music had won the interest of anthropologists who probed the cultural values of the Sudanese music. Still this is a treasure that needs to be further disclosed to the tourists. Some tourists with passion to anthropology and folk art have conducted studies and written books about this Sudanese heritage. Anthropologist Rudolf Hosman had written some works about the Nuba Mountains culture and that of the Habab of Eastern Sudan.
Sudanese musicians participate effectively in expos organized abroad where dances of different regions are displayed. Such troupes, with their colorful attires, had won the admiration of many people abroad.
The Sudan rainy season, with its fine weather, can become a tourist attraction everywhere in the country, particularly in the regions of kordufan and Darfur. During the rainy season those regions are covered with green vegetation. Everybody is happy, especially the herders and farmers who like to sing and dance during group work in land cultivation or on camel backs. Farmers have their own songs for cultivation and harvesting.The rainy season represents a continuous festivity that brings joy to tourists.