Click to open and read, click to collapse
Food in context
Food is more than just sustenance; it plays several other important roles as well. These include creating and sustaining social relationships, maintaining cherished values, signalling social status, occupation and gender roles, marking important life changes, anniversaries, festivals, and reasserting religious, ethnic and regional identities. Because of these many social roles, dietary beliefs and practices are anchored in the social fabric and are difficult to discard even when they are health-threatening. Special foods are prepared for pregnant women, infants, children and the sick, and many taboos and observances recognized.
The late Professor Tigani Al-Mahi has discussed the role of food in social institutions. He has said that the significance of food in the life of man is not altogether confined to its nutritional and biological effects. Since the dawn of history, indeed from prehistory, food has had extremely important functions of a festal, communal and spiritual nature. These were factors of great historical importance in the material, social and spiritual evolution of man. People select their diet through experimentation and develop their food habits through a long process of conditioning determined by ecological and cultural factors. Nutrition may also have an appreciable effect on the existing sociological patterns of family institutions and groupings. Infant and child mortality due to preferential feeding, for example of male children, underfeeding or wrong feeding may increase or sustain polygamy, increase the morbidity and mortality of young children, and affect marriage and sex life.
Food, thus, has cultural and nutritional functions. Some foods and special waters also have established roles in therapy, while several items have been tabooed.
The traditional Sudanese diet contains staple foods, the meats of different animals, namely, cattle, sheep, camel and goats, in addition to fish, poultry, seasonal fruits and vegetables. It varies according to locality, ethnic group, mode of life, degree of contact with foreign cultures, and whether the item is affordable or not. Turkish and Egyptian influences on culinary habits are clearly seen in northern and central Sudan, and among Muslim groups throughout the country. Common dishes and cuisines are identified in each locality and within each ethnic group.
The four humours theory which we discussed earlier gave nutrition a prominent place in the management of health and disease, and the use of rigid systems and regimens of nutrition for the sick became formalized as the most crucial part of the healing art.
Throughout the Sudan, women are the caretakers of food culture, and cooking is their exclusive specialization. In several regions, they procure food, and almost all over the country they procure and cook it too. They thus decide the amount and type of food to be eaten by the family. It is frequently shameful for a man to be seen in the kitchen. Grinding of grain in the murhaka (grinder), an essential step in bread-making, is done exclusively by women, daughters, wives or servants. When a funduq (mortar) is used instead, Nigerian women are employed.
During Ramadan all Muslims should abstain from water and food and forgo all pleasures of the senses from daybreak to sunset. Islam also prohibited the intake of certain food items altogether and sanctioned others. Meat that is religiously sanctioned is that of cloven animals that chew the cud, and which are ritually slaughtered according to Islam. Shot animals, if they are not ritually slaughtered immediately, are not eaten, and animal blood is not drunk. Fish that have fins and scales are eaten, but other sea foods are not. Muslims are strictly forbidden to eat pork. Pigs are, however, reared in the Nuba Mountains and pork is eaten there. However, some clans such as Tira, under the influence of Muslim Arabs, gave up rearing and eating pigs. Some ethnic groups in the southern and western parts of the country eat termites and locusts. Generally, with the exception of offal (tripe, liver, and lung), and fish when salted and fermented, nothing else is eaten raw. During famines, people have had to eat items that their culture has tabooed, their religion has forbidden, or which have simply not been to their taste or liking in normal circumstances. These items have included poisonous plants.
Bloss reported that grain stores used to be buried underground in the desert to prevent theft. It sometimes happened that the owner of a store would die, and that no one would know where the store was. However, the location of these underground stores was not very difficult as large trails of ants could be seen going to and from there. These ant trails were always explored with the hope of finding such a store. Of course, all ant trails did not lead to grain stores, but in a famine all ant trails were fully explored in high hopes.
Regular traditional dishes can be identified throughout the Sudan, and have changed little in the last century. In the central regions kisra (bread) made of sorghum, guinea corn or wheat, and dressed with mulah (gravy), is by far the commonest dish. Bafra and cassava, on the other hand, are popular sources of bread-making only in the southern Sudan. Dukhun (bull-rush millet) is popular for making ‘asida (porridge) and balila. Luqma, qurrasa and rudhaf are different types of bread made of any available cereal. Balila is a dish made of one or more type of cereals—dura, lubia ‘afin (red beans), lubia tayyib, lubia ‘adasi, maize grains or chick-peas-boiled and eaten sweet. It is usually taken mixed with samin (local butter) and dates.
The most popular types of mulah (gravy) are mulah taqaliya, um daqoqa, and mulah sharmut. Cooked dishes use one of the following vegetables: bamiya (okra), rigla (purslane), molokhiya (Jew’s mallow), qara’ (pumpkins) bambai (sweet potatoes), shamar (fennel), kasbara (coriander), fasoulia khadra, and baidha (haricot beans) and basal (onions). Spices include shatta (red chili), filfil aswad (black pepper), cammoun (black and green cumin), qirfa (cinnamon), zangabiel (ginger), ghourongal (galangal), and joze al-tib (nutmeg). James Bruce, writing two centuries ago, advised travellers to that part of the world [the Sudan] to take plenty of spices and seasoning, even in quantities enough to blister the palate. The natives, he said, do so and it strengthens the stomach. The most popular vegetables are generally components of salads. They include: tomatoes, cucumber, jirjir (eruca) (believed to be aphrodisiac) and recently-introduced items such as lettuce, carrot (also believed to be aphrodisiac) and beetroot. Fruits include mangoes, oranges, bananas, grapefruits, sweet melon, water melon and lemon. Babai and coconuts are mainly consumed in the southern parts of the country where they grow. Sugar cane and ‘ankolib (sweet cane) are chewed and sucked by the young.
The Sudanese have fermented several types of food of both animal and plant origin. People have also found that sprouting grains (a stage in fermentation) are cooked in a significantly shorter time. Their texture and flavour are found agreeable, and they are sometimes particularly relished for their mild acidity and alcoholic flavour. The food made from this type of grain is found useful in treating diarrhoea and other illnesses. A variety of fruits, vegetables, cereal beans, fish, meat and milk of most known animals, have been fermented for preservation or for immediate consumption. Some foods are salted, dried and spiced. Others are preserved as powdered gravy. Vegetables such as waika (okra), molokhiy.a (Jew’s mallow) and onions have also been dried. When meat is sliced and dried, it is called sharmut. In Darfur, this is pounded into powder with fried onions and dried okra, to make food for travellers to take on long journeys. Kawal, fermented Cassia tora, is consumed by more than 3 million people in the Sudan. It has a high protein content, is reputed to have a highly appetite-stimulating effect and aphrodisiac properties. In many localities of southern Sudan, people consume milk only after it becomes sour or robe, the acidity of which, it is noticed, may prevent contamination with bacteria and decreases possible danger from milk when it stands for long periods before consumption. Laban rayib (curdled milk) and fursa (milk butter) are among the best-known milk products. Meat is sometimes preserved in animal fat.
Generally, people eat in groups out of the same dish on the ground-covered or uncovered. Qadah wad-Zayyid (the wooden bowl of Wad-Zayyid) became proverbial for a dish that is said to be so big that the whole tribe used to eat out of it at one meal. People use their bare fingers in eating, and it is quite usual that they lick them and the bowl clean of gravy as a show of satisfaction.
Beside its nutritional value, food is held in esteem as a cherished item offered in sacrifice (karama) to God and holy men, offered (sadaqa) to spirits of the dead, or given as a token of a vow (nadr). In addition, animal slaughter, zabieha, has been the main method of showing hospitality and friendliness, the amount of food presented and items cooked, reflecting the hospitality of the family. No initiation rite is ever performed without the slaughter of an animal. The nutritional values of foods and the concept of a balanced diet are not known and do not determine the amount of food to be served daily. People, especially in a feast, are fed and encouraged to eat more until they are sated. In some rural areas, loud belching is a sign of satisfaction, and it is bad manners not to do so.
A confinement and dietary regime called khashaba, is prescribed for rutuba (joints pains), sass (syphilis) and various mental disturbances. In this regime, all animal products are withheld, and only ‘ishba is added to food. The regime is maintained for forty days during which the patient is kept in an absolutely undisturbed confinement. At the end of this period, the patient is allowed to fumigate before ending the seclusion. Slatin Pasha, the famous Mahdi prisoner, was alleged to have escaped captivity during a pretended khashaba. His guards were lead to believe that he was ill and needed khashaba, and, therefore, should not be disturbed. During the confinement, he managed to flee the country to Egypt.
Al-Tabaqat, a chronicle of biographies of Sudanese scholars prior to 1800, abounds in feats of holy men undergoing prolonged fasts. Sufi saints still fast on water, qarad (sunt pods) and a bare minimum of sorghum bread to help them in meditation and prayer.
Some food items deserve special mention because of their alleged therapeutic or high nutritional value. Honey is popular as food and a drink in the Sudan and throughout the Nile valley. It is also the only item that the Holy Quran specified as ‘having a medicine for mankind,’ and was consequently recommended for different ailments in the various versions of Al-Tibbb Al-Nabawi (the Prophet Muhammad’s Medicine).
Food habits in urban centres are changing rapidly, and people are becoming estranged from their local foods. Nomads, who used to travel on beasts through deserts and barren land for weeks and months, have developed appropriate food preservation technologies. When means of transport improved and nomads settled, food technologies changed accordingly. Time-honoured dishes are no longer prepared in urban and semi-urban centres; they are no longer needed. For example, sharmut meat, which was a common travellers’ companion on long journeys, has become a rarity.
Milk, besides its nutritional and therapeutic values, has always been an item of symbolic significance in Sudanese life. It is the food of the newborn, and as such is used in several rituals signifying virginity, healthy growth and prosperity. This fundamental importance makes it feature strongly in the initiation of all social activities where success is essential. This is probably why jirtiq beads are dipped in milk and dura before they are invested on the bride and bridegroom among other decorations. For Muslims, milk is the food of the elect in heaven. Milk (along with dates and honey) is a food that possesses sacred attributes according to the Quran. It is commensurate with this belief, Al-Tom writes, that the Arabized Sudanese treat milk with great respect. As an example, if a guest is offered milk to drink, and if he or she, for one reason or another, does not feel like taking it, he or she should dip his or her ring finger of the right hand in the milk and then lick it before the milk is taken away. This is an expression honouring the Prophet Muhammad by not rejecting his food. Furthermore, because of this sacred attribute, milk is used to identify a sahhar (a witch). Whenever one is suspected, a battery of tests are performed. As a final confirmatory step, the suspect is offered milk; if it is rejected the suspicion is confirmed.
A widely-known practice is also associated with dates. Immediately after delivery, the midwife chews a piece of dates, spits it out and then feeds it to the baby as his or her first food in life. A similar procedure called tahnik is performed by the patron shaikh of the clan or, if he is not easy to reach, by the nearest pious man. In this procedure the man chews a piece of date, reads some selected verses of the Quran on it, and then rubs the paste on the child’s gum.
We discussed earlier that in almost all societies we find the same set of components of magic: the spell, the ritual and their associated observances such as food taboos. These taboos, in addition to those that are religiously-sanctioned, and the prevalent social customs and personal idiosyncracies, affect health when they deprive people of much-needed food in times of scarcity. Of course, during famines people have had to eat things which are culturally tabooed, forbidden by religion, or simply not to their taste or liking. These have included poisonous plants, among other items.
Many Sudanese believe that egg-yolk delays speech in young children, and so they withhold it completely from them. They also believe that meat makes a child with measles worse. If a lactating woman gets pregnant, her milk is regarded as no longer suitable for her baby.
Special foods are prepared for pregnant women to provide them with needed nutrients to make up for deficiencies caused by food fads, idiosyncracies and taboos. Food cravings are satisfied immediately for fear of harming the mother or her child, for example by causing birth marks. Also, the birth of a deformed, monstrous or an albino child is believed to be due to a heavenly curse, the breach of a taboo by either parent, or the mother’s food fads or idiosyncracies.
In certain taboos, several foods are omitted from a child’s diet during feeding in general and weaning in particular. By so doing, a child is inevitably deprived of some high-quality foods. Breast milk is believed to be harmful once the next pregnancy is suspected.
Camel meat is withheld from pregnant women because it is thought to prolong the gestation period beyond nine months to that of a camel. This taboo can be deleterious to the health of women, especially when camel meat is the only source of protein available. In some localities meat in general is thought to infest children with a variety of intestinal worms; in others, goats’ milk is held to make them more prone to become thieves; both are, thus, avoided. Also, meat is avoided as much as possible during pregnancy, for fear of producing a large baby, which, they believe, causes difficult labour.
The late Tigani Al-Mahi wrote on the food customs and cultural taboos of the Sudanese, and commented on one of the most widely-held beliefs in the Sudan and north Africa, that, if milk and fish are taken together the combination causes baras (leucoderma) and other diseases. He says:
“Food taboos arise mainly on the basis of religious or cultural scruples. Some evolve from other forms of collective experience …. Among desert folk there has always been the belief that when fish and milk are taken together, sickness invariably arises. The indisposition is allergic. It is believed that there exists an incompatibility between milk and fish. But, surely, milk is the staple diet of these communities, which does not vary the year round, and the fish meal is occasional and exceptional. Since fish is more likely to precipitate allergic reactions by itself especially if fish is not one of the regular items of food of the community, the order of causality is confused. The blame is thrown on the combination rather than on the human constitution.”
In two Otoro clans of the Nuba—Lomgyan and Lokogyama—the Lomgyan people may neither eat nor kill jackals, lest they fall ill and die; the Lokogyama are forbidden to eat lizards, the penalty taking the form of a wasting disease for which there is no cure. There is no rule against killing lizards or, for example, using their skins for making sheaths for the arm-knives which the Nuba carry; but a Lokogyama man must not touch the dead animal, and must wait for the member of some other clan to skin it for him.
Disaster may befall the whole tribe if certain animals considered of importance to the group are killed or their flesh eaten. One is a domestic animal—the goat: the Ldonyo people must not eat or kill young she-goats which have not yet given birth, nor may they drink goats’ milk, else all domestic animals of the tribe which are in milk will die. Three others are predatory animals: the Larallo clan must never kill leopards, or else some of their own clansmen would die; the Iltiri clan must never kill or eat snakes (including the python), lest the specific magic of this clan, which keeps poisonous snakes in check and cures snake bite, lose power; and one section of Iltobo is forbidden to kill lions.
In the case of the predatory animals, the connection between clan and animal goes even deeper and gains totemic significance. The leopard is described as the ‘brother’ of the Larallo clan; he would never attack a Larallo man, but would visit his house as a friend, without doing damage; so would snakes, the ‘brothers’ of Iltiri: it is said that if there were a nursing mother in the house of an Iltiri man, and if her milk dripped on the floor, snakes would come and lap it up.
To these ‘formal’ clan observances, Nadel added, we must add another different category of clan rights and obligations, which express the unity and identity of the clan, not through the sameness of action, but through concerted action and co-operation. They define the identity of the clan negatively, by forbidding members of different clans to eat meat or drink milk together (other food being regarded as harmless), threatening them with the penalty of leprosy. They assert its identity positively, through a special institution, the ‘clan meal’ (under which name this usage is known).
No Heiban or Otoro man may eat meat by himself or in the small family circle; whenever he slaughters an animal, he must invite a few clansmen to share his meal (game falls in a different category), etc.
Of incest the Nuba spoke with anger and disgust. No one would eat meat or drink milk with the offenders, who would be virtually ostracized by their clans. But often enough these clandestine incestuous relationships might never be discovered—until some day leprosy would appear in the kinship group and thus reveal that incest had been committed. In Heiban, the sanction of leprosy is assumed to follow any incestuous relationship. The fear of leprosy extends even to actions merely symbolic of sexual intimacy: thus when a man eats and drinks for the first time with his konyara (who belongs to his maternal clan), he puts a certain root believed to prevent leprosy into the beer of which the two will drink.
The Shulluk tribe in southern Sudan does not eat the flesh of lions, leopards, hyenas, a species of monitor lizard (varanus) and a special type of fish called shuru. None of them dares to breach these taboos and eat the meat of any of these animals, even in periods of famine and food scarcity.
All Tira clans are forbidden to eat the flesh of certain animals (e.g., squirrel and wild cat), lest they be punished with grave illness—blindness, or a crippling disease which ‘breaks the limbs’. In case of inadvertent breach of this taboo, purification rites are in order.
Most Nuba tribes also observe certain food rules which have no ritual or magic significance, but are merely food idiosyncracies. Thus the Tira (and similarly Heiban, Otoro, Moro, and other groups) do not eat the flesh of horses, mules, dogs, hyenas, frogs; nor do they eat ants or snakes (save the python, which is considered a great delicacy).
Trimingham reports on a dairy-ritual retained by the Bega tribes of eastern Sudan, along with certain other Hamitic tribes, such as the Galla of Ethiopia. He says:
“Milk possesses a certain virtue which is not only lost if any of the ritual is omitted, but may cause harm to the person partaking of it. The chief rules are that: men only must milk; no man may drink of the milk he has drawn until someone else has drunk of it; milk must only be drawn into gourds or basketry vessels; it must never be boiled and may only be cooked in certain ways; it may not be sold. A shaikh is also splashed with milk at his installation. This milk ritual seems to be the making of something sacred or taboo permissible for human consumption.”
Similar dairy-rituals are reported among the Nuba. For example, women of Heiban tribe may never milk goats or cows. In most tribes this sexual division of labour appears as a customary rule, an old-established arrangement, for which the people can only produce the typical vague explanations of habitual practices—‘it isn’t done’ or ‘it would be shameful’. In three groups, however—Korongo, Mesakin and Tullishi—it takes the form of a severe avoidance, backed by superstitious fears and by a feeling of disgust and repulsion at the very thought of letting women milk the animals.
If you were to drink milk milked by women (say the Korongo and Mesakin), your teeth would break and fall out. In all three groups this avoidance is based on the conception of the ‘uncleanness’ of women, whose menstruation blood (even if they are not at the moment menstruating) would spoil the milk. Small girls, before the age of puberty, are accordingly exempted from this avoidance.
Indeed, Nuba men would never eat or drink anything that has been handled by a menstruating woman; they believe that, if they did, their teeth and bones would break. Muhammad Haroun Kafi adds that in the southern parts of the Nuba mountains a woman who is menstruating walks a shadow-length away from others, never puts her hand out for greeting others, and, when fetching water, has her pot filled by somebody else, and when she carries the vessel she uses a special spiral stick so that she does not touch the pot.
Water is indispensable to every human society. It is needed for the survival of man, animal and plant life; in addition, it has an important role in maintaining acceptable sanitary and hygienic conditions. The Sudanese tried to provide safe water for daily use, and devised several methods for procuring, preserving, purifying, disinfecting and flavouring water. They also knew several vegetables and fruits that are rich in water, such as coconuts, water melon, sweet melon, sugarcane, ‘ankolieb (sweet cane, Holcus saccharatus), etc.
Water is obtained from rivers, streams, irrigation canals, hand-dug wells, hafir(s) (man-made ponds) or fula(s) (rain water lakes), and bore wells (surface and artesian) that are getting more common in villages. Some hafir(s) are dug by notable shaikh(s) and bear their names, for example, hafir Hasan Wad Husuna in Wad Husuna village. Clay obtained from some hafir(s) has attained therapeutic value. Clay from the hafir of Ahmad Wad Al-Turabi known as tinat wad Al-Turabi is a reputable treatment for rabies among the natives of that locality.
To make water wholesome, several traditional methods have been known. At home, water is stored in zeers (earthenware pots), qar’as (calabashes), or si’ins (water skins). For long-term storage, several clay pots are filled with the muddy water, sealed with fresh clay and stored until spontaneous sedimentation occurs. Water is also stored in cisterns dug in huge tabaldi (baobab tree, Adansonia digitata). In these natural reservoirs and in other man-made ones, water is usually muddy, and soiled with a variety of pollutants that give it a foul stench. To make it potable, it is, therefore, essential to purify, disinfect, cool and, occasionally flavour water, particularly during flood seasons.
It has been observed that water in places where certain plants grow is clear. These plants are therefore grown to clarify water. Such plants include dees or si’da (Cyperus species: Typha ingustata in central Sudan and Typha angustifolia in Butana region). In river banks, clear water is obtained by scooping holes in the sand to obtain percolated water.
Simpler methods of purification include pouring water into zeer(s) through cloth and leaving it for some time for sediments to settle down before use. Filtered water that dribbles down a porous clay jar (naqqa’ water), is collected for drinking and for brewing tea. A cup of tea so obtained is highly-priced as being golden-clear in colour and superior in taste. To clarify running water, date dalaib fronds are used to trap particulate matter. Alternatively, the fronds are put in the bottom of troughs to achieve the same effect.
Different methods of coagulating particulate matter in turbid water are known throughout the country.A common method involves the leaves or twigs of shajarat al-mikhkhait (Boscia senegalensis); they are thrown on the surface of the turbid water. In central and northern Sudan, a thin film of dough made of kisra (dura bread), or a thin layer of robe (sour milk curds), is spread over turbid water. Sometimes, the water is dusted with the ash of plants or earth from termite hills, as in southern Darfur.
If rapid clarification is required, water is twirled with branches of Boscia senegalensis and Maerua crassifolia (western Sudan) or with the roots of korda (Maerua pseudopetalosa) in Blue Nile region. These methods do not produce high quality drinking water, because it acquires a typical smell, taste and a brownish discolouration.
The commonest method of water purification in central and northern Sudan uses rawwaq (clarifying clay) obtained from river banks. The coagulant is added to a small amount of water and stirred for 10-20 minutes; the resulting suspension is then poured into turbid water. Satisfactory results are obtained in an hour’s time.
In northern Sudan, several pulses are also used to purify water. These include peas (lentil), ful masri (horse beans), ful sudani (ground nuts), crushed and added through a strainer to protect against the smell of putrefying material. Jeer al-rawwaq (clarifying lime) is similar to the clarifying clay in composition and is similarly used, but second in efficiency. This lime is obtainable from Jebel Kassinger north of Karima and Al-Karafab close to Korti. Powdered seeds of shajar al-rawwaq (clarifying tree, Moringa olefeera) are put in a small cloth bag to which a thread is attached, hung in turbid water and stirred till water is clear. This tree is said to have been introduced by the Fallata (Nigerians) and the British. The Fallata used it as a medicinal plant and a vegetable; the British in the Sudan planted it as an ornamental tree in public and private gardens. In Donqola in northern Sudan, a piece of shebb (alum) or a tablespoonful of mahlab seeds (Hypoestes verticillaris) is found enough to coagulate 20 litres of turbid Nile water.
A special coagulant mixture is made of pounded broad beans and qarad (sunt pods). This mixture, in addition to its coagulant properties, is alleged to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. Tarfa (Tamarix nilotica) and scented lime leaves are also used to purify turbid water. The coagulant is usually discarded at the end.
The concept of disinfection is only vaguely recognised. Water is boiled in many parts of the country, especially when it is plentiful. In Darfur, it is boiled with a piece of bark from basham al-abyad (Grewia bicolor). Water is also flavoured using nal (Cymbopogon nervatus), and mahareb (Cymbopooon proximus). The stalks and leaves of both plants are thrown into water containers. Mahareb, in addition, is taken to soothe abdominal cramps, and as such is a usual additive to nasha (dura porridge).
The Sudanese prepare and consume many soft beverages. Some of these are unique, such as abray , a sweet beverage for the fasting month. Also common are tea and coffee, both of which are imported—coffee from Ethiopia and Kenya, and tea from India. They are prepared in the same way as other parts of the world.
Beverages widely consumed in the northern Sudan include karkade (red sorrel), ‘aradeb (tamarind), hilba (fenugreek) and harjal (argel), qirfa (cinnamon) and ganzabil (ginger). All, besides modifying the mood, have some medicinal uses as well. Beverages are usually drunk sweetened with sugar, but the elderly still prefer to take coffee with dates, especially soft dates (‘ajwa).
 Helman C. Culture, Health and Illness. Bristol: Wright. PSG, 1984: 23-41.
 Tigani Al-Mahi. Food Customs and Cultural Taboos. in: Ahmad Al-Safi et al (Editors) Tigani Al-Mahi Selected Essays, Khartoum; Khartoum University Press, 1981; 129-137.
 In most villages, a family, according to its means, would raise its own stock of chickens, various other types of livestock, and grow vegetables in the back garden. These may help to provide for the family’s sustenance, and ensure household petty cash. Though this may seem ideal, families may frequently opt to sell their products rather than consume them, leaving some members of the family at risk of dietary imbalance.
 The works that dealt with nutritional surveys include those of Geraldine Culwick: Social Factors Affecting Diet. Khartoum; 1954: A dietary survey among the Zande of the South East Sudan. Khartoum, Sudan: Khartoum Agricultural Publications Committee; 1950; Diet in the Gezira Irrigated Area, Sudan: Sudan Survey Department; February 1951; (No. 304), and Sukkar, M.Y. Human Nutrition. London: Biddles Ltd.; 1985.
 Ahmad Al-Safi; Taha Baasher, Editors. Tigani Al-Mahi: Selected Essays. ed. Khartoum: Khartoum University Press; 1981; University of Khartoum, Silver Jubilee (1956-1981): 130.
 Each locality in Muslim Sudan has prepared its own foods for the Month. The Fur, for example, prepared a food called diri made of the boiled and skimmed fruit of the Cordia abyssinica, Balanites aegyptiaca, Zizphus spina cliristi, Tamarindus indica and Grewia betulaefolia, with and admixture of flour to make it into an edible paste or honey to convert it into a palatable drink. (Beaton, A.C. The Fur, Sudan Notes and Records; 19-18; 29(l): 1-39.
 The ninth month of the Arab and Islamic calendar. The word Ramadan originally meant “great heat,” a description which originates in the pre-Islamic solar calendar. This month was holy in Arab tradition before Islam and was one of the months of truce. Fasting during the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. C. Glasse. The concise Encyclopaedia of Islam. Stacey International, London: 1959; see Ramadan.
 Ritual slaughter is performed by pushing the animal to lie down on its left side, the front of the neck facing the east or the Qibla (the Muslim Holy Mosque in Makka) and then uttering Bismillah, Allahu Akbar (In the name of God, God is great) three times before cutting the throat, carotid arteries and jugular veins of the animal with a quick bold slash of a sharp knife. Compared to other ways of animal slaughter, for example, the Pharaonic, Jewish shechita, the captive bolt technique, electric stunning followed by venesection etc., Muslim zabh is said to be satisfactory, humane and secures better exsanguination of the carcass.
 The Sudanese are very partial to camel’s heart which they eat raw. To make it more tender the shaykhs of quite a number of tribes such as the Shukriyya, the Kababish and the Rufa’a have it cut into small pieces which are then soaked in bilbil and served to the guests with rounds of drinks. The heart is seasoned with salt, cloves, chillies, all in powdered form. The many who are fond of it invariably pay a lot for it. A camel’s heart always costs round about 15 francs.” From an anonymous journal describing events in the Sudan, in: Sante, P.; Hill, Richard, Translators and Editors. The Europeans in the Sudan 1834-1878: Clarendon Press; 1980. 250 pages.
 Bloss, J.F.E. Notes on the Health of the Sudan Prior to the Present Government. Sudan Notes and Records; 1941; 24: 131.
 Equipment used for leavening and making bread, for example, rahayia and murhaka (grinder) with jarrash or mus-han (grindstone) and raddad, and handling utensils, such as mukmama (gourd cup) and qarqarieba, qaraa, kass, (bottle gourd), qarn khirtit (rhino’s horn), mu’raka, and containers: bukhsa, burma, khummara, and kantoush, have all virtually disappeared from urban centres. Also, the traditional processing of bread is dying out. The process used to involve a series of steps; washing grain, for example, sorghum, then warsh (spreading), darish (coarse grinding), tahn (fine grinding) in a murhaka or a funduk, takhmir (fermenting) into ‘ajin, and, finally ‘uasa (baking) on a doka (flat stone or baked clay oven). Traditional leavening and baking have preserved the unique taste, colour and aroma of bread. It is noted, in addition, that baking on a doka produces tastier bread than baking on a sajj (flat metal oven).
 Bruce, James (1765-1777). Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (in the years 1768, 69, 70, 71, 72, & 73). Edinburgh; 1790. Vol. 4; 5.
 Holcus saccharatus as described in: Kotschy, Theodore; Peyritsch, M, Editors. Plantes Tinneennes: Plants collected on the Tinnean Expedition in Central Africa by 3 Dutch ladies (1861-3) [French & Latin). Mme. Also described other local plants including: Teloboon, bamia, coffee, dura, beans, tamarind, sesame, groundnut, dalaib, seeds of lotus, dome, dukhun, maize, butter tree, tebeldi, higlig, as well as the poisonous shajarat al-sim (Euphorbia candelabrum) and Cissus quadrangularis. (See Foreign Impressions page 8).
 Laloab, nabaq, tasali, qiddaim, fool sudani, turmus and jurum are among the light snacks favoured by children and adults alike.
 The subject was reviewed well in the Regional Training Course on Fermented Foods of the Arab World; 1-15 February 1987; Faculty of Agriculture (University of Khartoum), Food Research Centre (Agricultural Research Corporation) and UNESCO. Khartoum.
 Khattab, A.G.H. Nutritional Benefits from Food Fermentation. Regional Training Course on Fermented Foods of the Arab World; 1-15 February 198-1; Faculty of Agriculture (University of Khartoum), Food Research Centre (Agricultural Research Corporation) and UNESCO. Khartoum.
 Natural fermentation occurs when environmental conditions permit interaction between microorganisms and susceptible organic substrates. The changed products have been found to keep well in a variety of climatic conditions, to have better appearance, to taste better, to be less toxic and to dry more quickly. Also, fermentation improves the nutritional value of food and renders it easily digestible. Fermented foods also have an agreeable texture and flavour due to the mild acid or alcohol produced.
 Osman, O.H. The Pharmacological and Nutritive Properties of Kawal (Cassia tora). Sudan Medical Journal; 1972; 10(l): 40-44.
 This is a root of the Smilax species (sarsaparilla), and is imported from India. It is found to be rich in starch and a source of smilaginine (a source of steroids).
 Slatin Pasha, Sir Rudulf Karl von, Baron (1557-1932), was an Austrian officer in the service of the Egyptian and Sudan Governments, and held various high-ranking posts in the Sudan. After fighting a series of battles against the Mahadist troops, he surrendered in March I884; for eleven years, he remained in captivity at Omdurman; he escaped in 1895.
 Muhammad Al-Nur Ibn Daif Allah. Op. Cit.
 The Holy Quran: verse 69, Sura 16 (surat al-Nahl).
 “And in the cattle you have a proof (of the greatness of God). We give you to drink of what is in their bellies from between faeces and blood, pure milk that is pleasant to swallow by drinkers.(66) And of the fruits of the palm trees and grapes, you take therefrom an inebriant and a goodly provision. Surely in that is a sign to a people that are scrupulous.(67) And your Lord reveals to the bees, saying, ‘Take to yourselves lodging from the mountains, and from the trees and that which they thatch.’ (68) Then eat of every kind of fruit, and follow your Lord’ s ways in ease. Out of their bellies comes forth a syrup of diverse hues, in which is medicine for mankind. Surely in that is a sign for a people who reflect.(69) The Bounteous Koran: Sura 16 Surat al Nahl (The Bee).
 Abdullahi Osman El-Tom. Nutritional Beliefs & Practices in Umshanig Townships, eastern Gezira. Plan/Sudan (Central Region). Khartoum: TMRI.
 During famines, various tribes in the Sudan showed extraordinary pride and stamina in facing inevitable death. When they lose hope of getting food, they tied their children down and closed their doors; they preferred to die in dignity, rather than expose themselves to the humiliation of begging.
 Tigani Al-Mahi. Op. Cit.
 Nadel. Op. Cit. 97-8.
 Nadel. Op. cit. pages 189-90.
 Nadel. Op. Cit. page 98.
 Nadel. Op. Cit. Page 110.
 For more details, see Nadel, S.F. The Nuba: An anthropological study of the Hill Tribes of Kordofan. London: Oxford University Press; 1947: 188-9.
 Trimingham, J.S. Islam in the Sudan. London: Oxford University Press; 1949: page 185.
 Nadel, S.F. The Nuba: An anthropological study of the Hill Tribes of Kordofan. London: Oxford University Press; 1947: 60-1.
 Nadel. Op. Cit. page 284.
 Muhammad Haroun Kafi. Al-Kujur [Arabic]. Khartoum: Folklore Department, IAAS, University of Khartoum; 1976; Silsilat Dirasat fi Al-Turath Al-Sudani: page 104.
 The American Heritage Dictionary defines ‘beverage’ as ‘any of various liquids for drinking, usually excluding water’, Houghton Mifflin 1982; Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English ‘liquid for drinking, esp. one that is not water, medicine, or alcohol’, Longman 1984. For the purpose of this work, ‘beverage’ is defined as any drink taken to allay or quench thirst be it water—pure, modified in taste or odour, or which has any additive including mild alcohol--, or drinks obtained from plants, which supply the body’s fluid requirements.
 Zeers are traditionally placed on hammalas (holders).
 These are leather bags that are treated with qarad (sunt pods) or more recently, tar from the outside to prevent the leather from chapping and ensure a longer life.
 Samia Al-azhariya. See relevant entries in the appended Bibliography.