Pin It
Thursday, July 25th, 2013

My First Ramadan in the Sudan

By
My First Ramadan in the Sudan —InCultureParent © flickr

My introduction to Ramadan started early. I was 12 and my mother and Sudanese stepfather had moved us to Khartoum, Sudan. Apart from feeling a sense of displacement and missing the relatives I had left behind in ex-Yugoslavia, I also had to adjust and familiarize myself with my stepfather’s Muslim family and the country’s prevalent Muslim populace.

 

At first, we lived with my stepfather’s family in an impoverished part of the city. Within its dusty streets lined with shabby, mud-brick houses, I learned about Ramadan. This new bewildering yet captivating existence opened up like the petals of a jasmine flower. I was young and easily impressionable. I quickly adapted to the events marking the life of my new Muslim relatives. I grew to look forward to the ritual of Iftar, the breaking of fast at sunset.

 

During the day, a lazy stillness prevailed in the neighborhood. People hid inside their humble homes, sprinkling water on the earthen floors to cool the air, sometimes covering with wet bed sheets for the same reason.

 

About an hour or so before the breaking of fast, a cacophony of sounds would arise from the previously inactive kitchens. Grandmothers would begin frying flat bread over the coal stove, importantly swatting flies and issuing orders to the younger members. Some were sent off on errands to the corner shop, for a square of white cheese or a bowl of foul. This bean dish was a staple requirement of any Sudanese Iftar, liberally drenched with sesame oil and eaten with chunks of bread. Then, there was the array of juices to be prepared. Fresh lemonade, mango and guava juices lined up in a colorful display next and a uniquely Sudanese concoction called abre.

 

As the call of the Muezzin for the sunset prayer neared, frantic preparations reached a climax. Each household served their meal in a round steel tray around which they would all gather afterwards. Finally, the sky would burst into song as the words from the Quran rang through the city and filled those faithful fasting with relief and gratitude.

 

Dates were eaten first, sometimes with a few sips of water or juice. Then, prayers were performed in the dusty yard over which a straw mat was placed as the family gave thanks together. The head of the family (usually the grandfather or in his absence a father, uncle or oldest son) stood proudly in the front, a place of honor. The men and boys lined themselves behind, then the women and girls. Again, a silence settled on Khartoum’s streets, inside homes, even among rows of labakh trees lining the Nile. I remember how even the birds quieted and a strange sense of peace blanketed all. Muslims gave thanks in silence, bowing gracefully, tapping their fingers on their knees in unison at the end.

 

After this final restraint, they rose and were free to indulge in their meal. Even children fasted, showing off their new awareness of piety, rushing towards adulthood with glee. Eagerly, they converged around the delicacies offered, for during Ramadan every mother and grandmother made more of an effort and produced something special. Soft cheese or meat samosas jostled on the tray with tamiya (garbanzo bean patties fried in hot oil), dome-shaped maize pudding was served with a dried okra and ground meat moolah stew. For dessert, colorful bowls of jelly hid a biscuit or sliced bananas. Sometimes, there were sweetened noodles or rice pudding.

 

As I remember those Ramadans in Sudan, I see the humble unquestioning commitment to faith. I remember watching Arabic episodes portraying the voyage of Islam through history and the life of the Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be upon Him. The characters were valiant and faithful, their flowing robes and galloping horses magnificent against the backdrop of the desert sunset.

 

Even then they had stirred something inside me.

© 2013, Zvezdana Rashkovich. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Almost African: My Childhood as a Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

The freedom of growing up as the only Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

Around the World in One Semester

Welcome to our newest blogger--a world traveling, homeschooling mom--to the InCultureParent family!

How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband

And why this is the number one fight in our household

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Zvezdana Rashkovich was born in ex-Yugoslavia to a Serbian father and Croatian mother. At the age of seven, she started her lifelong nomadic journey across Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai and the United States. A fluent Arabic and Serbo-Croatian speaker, she has worked as a medical and legal interpreter for refugees in the United States. Owing to her eclectic experiences, she has developed an intense zeal for multiculturalism. Zvezdana currently lives in Dubai with her Sudanese husband and four children. She is the author of Dubai Wives and is working on a memoir Africa in the Way I Dance.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Tradition and Parenting