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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Sudan’s Traditional Foods Festival: A Varied, Rich Nutritional Culture

KHARTOUM - (Rogia al-Shafee - Sudanow, Photographer: Mahjoub Mohamed al-Hassan) Sudan is gifted with a diverse climate, fauna and flora, food, people and

sociological and cultural characteristics quite unique as compared to its neighbors in the Arab and African regions.
This diversity is also apparent in the traditional foods the country had known since the dawn of history and which continued to be passed by one generation to another.
Still, the quick change that reached everything, is about to cast its shadows on this big heritage of diverse traditional foods in the country.
In an endeavor to maintain Sudan’s rich heritage in traditional foods and drinks, DAL Group, a company that  operates across many business sectors including food & Beverages, agriculture, automotive …etc, launched during November 21-25 the Second Sudan Traditional Foods Festival, at the grounds of Khartoum International Fair in Burri suburb.
The bid is meant to avail Sudanese and foreigners the opportunity to taste the Sudanese traditional foods through live cooking shows, presented to the accompaniment of live music and dancing shows that reflect Sudan’s diverse cultural heritage. The festival also includes an open-air steak market where visitors can see and buy meat cooked in Sudan’s traditional hand-made cooking utensils.
The Goup’s Information and Public Relations Manager Omar Oushari Ahmad considered the launching of the Festival “ an attempt to celebrate the richness and diversity of Sudan’s traditional foods and drinks.”
“It is also an attempt to connect the Sudanese generations, bridge the gap between the country’s past and present and to preserve this rich cultural heritage,” he told Sudanow Magazine.
“The Festival is also a forum to celebrate our traditions in agriculture, storing and  preparation of the different types of foods and drinks and to educate and encourage local producers and experts to keep up their role is preserving these traditions and communicate them to the upcoming generations,” said Ahmad.
“It is also a bid to encourage initiatives in scientific research in the domain of traditional foods and drinks,” he said.
In a tour of the exhibition Sudanow had had a view of the Festival functions and the accompanying programs.
The Festival comprises a number of internal and external exhibitions that aim to portray and explain Sudan’s different types of folklore dances and music which were performed as traditional foods were being prepared.
We first entered the first pavilion that gave a presentation of Sudan’s food chain, starting from the farms down to the dinner table. Equipment used in the preparation of land, cultivation and crop harvesting was on display in this section. Beside these the visitor would see a model of the crop market where different types of sorghum, wheat, barley and millet are bought or sold. Then one can see the fruit and vegetable market. Near to these the visitor can see spices of sorts put on display. The latter list contains white and red ginger, cinnamon, maharaib, atroon (sodium chloride both in sand and rock form), waikab (a mixture of grinded dry okra and burned sorghum stalks cooked as food), in addition to aromatic plants used for medications or drinks. This latter list includes karkade (hibiscus), aradaib (tamarind) and guddaim (tinnas grevia). In another section milk products such as butter, milk, yoghurt, whey and all types of cheese are displayed. A model is placed showing how Sudan’s different traditional foods such as porridge, gurrasa (traditional wheat bread), neaimiyya, tagliyya, beans and kajaik (dried fish) dishes are cooked.
At this section the visitor can also find a replica of the tukul (traditional rural kitchen) where raw food substances and cooking utensils are kept. This is also the place where food is cooked.
At the second pavilion DAL Group displays its different food preparation activities as well as what modern technology could do in the production of Sudanese traditional foods that include gruel made of cereals such as  millet, sorghum and wheat with the addition of fenugreek, vanilla, vermicell ...etc, susokaniyya (tiny wheat flour balls), tamarind, hibiscus, millet and sorghum porridge. A new DAL product is soon to hit the market. That is a take away mixture of neaimiyya (or tagliyya) with lintels which can be prepared for consumption just with addition of water. Neaimiyya and tagliyya stews are two traditional Sudanese dishes obtained by cooking dried okra with dried meat and onion with the addition of yoghurt for the latter. The new product was tried during the festival and was appreciated by the visitors.
In this section there is also a book show that contains several publications (in Arabic and English) on traditional food research. Here there is also a video and photo exhibition reflecting scenes from all over Sudan. There is also a special video show of traditional foods, agricultural operations and camel-driven sesame oil mills. All this is presented to the company of related traditional Sudanese ceremonies. There is also a section containing all of Sudan’s traditional musical instruments. The list contains the dalluka (a big drum), the rubab and tambur (similar to the lute), the dingir (a small drum) and several others.
Outside this second pavilion one can find entertaining shows that include folk music and folk dances from the different parts of the country that attract local and foreign visitors who often join in the dancing and singing. These folklore shows are a true reflection of the diverse and deep rooted culture of Sudan.
At the Fair yard the visitor finds the open air food market where live shows are on display for the preparation of traditional foods from the different regions of the country. In addition to the different types of porridges and beans the visitor can see steaks cooked on charcoal and gravel (the latter is called salat and is a characteristic of Eastern Sudan). There is also a display of Sudanese pastry, malooha (fermented fish soup), fassekh (salted fish), grilled Sudanese peanuts and rhamnus, baobab and date fruits.
Visitors, in particular, gather in great numbers at porridge and steak sections where they enjoy a delicious meal and drink Sudanese juices. Hibiscus drinks had won the favor of American, Syrian and Moroccan visitors, Sudanow has come to learn.
In this section the visitor can find a market for pottery and other hand-made works and traditional cooking utensils. Here there is also a replica of the traditional Sudanese grass hut and the mud house with their traditional furniture of angaraib (wood and rope bed), the banbar (wood and rope stool), the zeer (clay jar for keeping water), the tabaroaga (a prayer mat made from palm leaves), waterskins, a cereal grinder, the kantoosh (cooking clay pot) and the dabkar bowel. Children have a special section here where they can watch traditional children games.
The exhibition has presented a great effort to document traditional knowledge and expertise in food production, cousins and traditional Sudanese and soft drinks from around the country, in a way that reflects the diversity and richness of Sudan’s foods and drinks. The Sudanese food table, as can be seen from these documents, is rich in different types of meat and milk products. The documents show how Sudanese had treated the different types of cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruits and how the Sudanese table is rich in starch, protein, fats and vitamins required for body building and protection. These were not specific to the urban areas, but the rural areas had had their creative contributions in this regard.
One of the most popular foods on display is the kajaik that originated in Kordofan in the mid-west and the White Nile region. The kajaik is dried fish cooked with onions. There is also the terkeen which is fermented fish cooked into a soup and which is most popular in the Northern State. We also have the miris and kawal soups which are popular in Western Sudan. We have the gadu-gadu which is consumed by the Fulani of Sennar State and Kordofan.
Some popular drinks are lemon gruel, aradaib gruel, the hilba (fenugreek) gruel, millet gruel, the umjingir gruel and others, in addition to the major hulu-murr (bitter sweet) soft drink taken during breakfast in the holy month of Ramadan. Hulu-murr is a concoction of fermented sorghum flour and spices which are sweetened and taken to quench thirst after a day’s fasting.
Some visitors approached by Sudanow have spoken about their impressions about the event:
Fatima al-Hassan, a Sudanese woman from the Northern State, said she was impressed by the traditional foods displayed, which, she said” are healthy and satiating for a long time.”
“The Sudanese were tall, strong, well built (without being fat) and agile in the past due to these healthy foods,” said Fatima.
“People were healthy, contrary to the case with today’s generation who had missed this healthy food,” she said.
Mohamed Osman Ali, from western Sudan, who is above 70 years old but looks as if he is in his twenties, has been moving around the show quite energetically. He said he was healthy because he depended on Western Sudan’s traditional food, though he had lived in Khartoum for a long time.
Najat Ahmad Hamid (from Khartoum) was in the exhibition with her children. They praised the traditional food products and DAL’s manufactured foods, which they described as “time and effort saving.”
A young man who was brought up outside the country was roaming the place in admiration and happiness, tasting the different types of food in earnest.
“Throughout my life, I had never known that my country is so rich in these nice foods. I had never heard about hibiscus, nor aradaib nor sorghum bread and okra soups,” he said.
He said the media should unleash a campaign to include the Sudanese traditional foods in the school curriculum.
Ameera Ahmad Musa, representative of the Blue Nile State’s women anti-poverty organization, has participated in the expo with Blue Nile foods and drinks. She was busy cooking porridge for visitors in the open air.
She said the Blue Nile is rich in agricultural and animal products. She said she had taken part in several exhibitions local and foreign before and had won prizes.
She said she had struck partnerships with women from South Kordofan and Darfur as areas of unrest and displacement.
“We have to join hands to emancipate women from poverty and lead them towards self-dependence,” she said.
She said she has an ambition to take part in propagating Sudanese foods and hand made products outside the country after she noticed the wide appreciation these products had received from different nationalities that visited the exhibition.