After arriving in the city, we randomly bumped into one of our very first Sudanese friends – Hassan. He had already invited us to his home back on the ferry from Aswan. The next day, we made sure to visit him. A family in Sudan usually live together in one village. Sons stay with their parents and the women move away after marriage. We got our fill of Karkade and Jabana when doing our traditional visiting rounds. We visited his aunts, great aunts, brothers and, in the end, went back to his mother’s home. His relatives always wanted us to stay longer.. we could easily stay here for a year!
As is usual for a family in Sudan, the women prepared lunch. I sat with them and waited to eat until after the men were served and satisfied. Simon ate with the men and really enjoyed one of the peanut sauce dishes. So, the men quickly called over Hadir, a young women in the family, to bring more. She was not happy about this but did as she was told. Sure enough, after I had lunch with the ladies, Simon remarked, “wow, that peanut dish was tasty.” I was puzzled and asked, “what peanut dish?”
After lunch, the ladies got together and I was treated to my very first Sudanese pamper day. However, Sudan’s version of a spa is a little different. I placed my hand on Hadir’s lap and she doodled across my arm. She then smoothed the charcoal black henna ink up and down from what looked liked a cake-icing bag.
The henna set on my arms while I had homemade, spiced body lotion rubbed onto my skin. One of the ladies, who joined the party, ordered a small boy to buy a new blade. When he came back, she unwrapped it and told me to close my eyes. There is something quite unnerving about a firm-handed women you cannot communicate with, chopping and slicing a sharp object across your face. After some weak protesting, I closed my eyes, hoping that I won’t open them to a bloodied mess. When in Rome, I thought… Instead I opened them to perfectly shaped eyebrows. Only one slit across my brow. All the tiny hairs on my face were also removed. Finally, they dabbed sweet homemade perfume on me, painted my lips red and dressed me in a patterned tob.
Simon had an equally fun day out with the boys. He rode on the back of a motorbike with Hassan’s brother. When they crossed wheat and vegetable fields, he told Simon “You see all this land? This is all mine.” An hour later, Hassan took him for another ride and said “You see all this land? All of this belongs to me.” Sharing must be intrinsic here and we were happy they shared their home, food and laughs with us.Simon likes the Henna.