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10 Tips to Survive Wedding Planning In Sudan

17 Jun

In light of the recent completely unnecessary and distracting drama with Bashir & South Africa, I have decided to turn our national attention back to the most critical topic in Sudan: weddings. After all, weddings are the closest thing we have to a national sport, so let’s focus on what’s really important please.

The first and most important step in planning a wedding in Sudan is to make sure you were never exposed to any wedding outside of Sudan, ever. Any exposure will only cause severe psychological disturbances, commonly known as “expectations” and or “standards.” If you or any loved ones have been exposed to a wedding outside of Sudan in the past 5-7 years, these 10 tips will really help you banish all symptoms of “expectations” and restore your “standards” to acceptable Sudan-friendly levels.

1- Call a wedding planner, but make sure you are ready to plan the wedding. Don’t waste his/her time if you’re not interested in planning the wedding yourself. That’s not their job. Their job is to give you the illusion that you’re not in deep shit. You are. But call them anyway.

2- Collect as many image references as possible so you can have a clear visualization of exactly what you want(ed) based on any exposure you might have had to other weddings outside of Sudan. Print all references, then burn them preferably in a healing ritual to prepare you for the actual burning of these references that will happen when your plans are ‘executed’ in real life. If you want to be more efficient, burn them and cry over them while you are doing your mandatory dukhan session.

3- You will need to quickly identify a Wedding MVP, this is most likely an aunt or a friend of a friend or even a neighbor that you never answered back on whatsapp, but you about to be ride or die. The real MVP will have the numbers of all the 7ananat, all the singers, and the 411 on all other weddings– which is especially pertinent if you think of Weddings as a competitive sport. Hang on to this MVP like your life depends on her. Because it probably does.

4- Know that red means pink, fuchsia, orange, purple, and sometimes even certain shades of blue can be considered red. So don’t be demanding. Actually the more you’re comfortable with the presence of all the colors of the rainbow all at once, the more you’ll like what you see in your wedding.

5- Glitter is your friend. There is no wedding in Sudan without glitter so you better make peace with it now. If you refuse it on your wedding cake, and your dress, and your decoration, you’ll find it poured all over your face when you get your makeup done. Somehow, the glitter will find you and haunt you. Don’t fight it.

6- Speaking of makeup, the makeup artist knows best. And what’s best is the tranny/drag queen look. It’s so in, have you not seen Caitlyn Jenner? So gorg. And what’s a bride really other than a glorified drag queen?

7- Your guests can do what they want dammit, so don’t you think of telling them about no dress code, or who/how many people they can or can’t bring, or what time to arrive, or where to sit. Have some respect; it’s their special day.

8- All videographers and photographers in Sudan are pure artistical geniuses, this is why you shouldn’t object to any highly creative montages on your wedding DVD that could include but not limited to: you and your groom’s faces merged into hearts, white doves flying in the middle of the screen throughout your wedding video, flowers in every frame (probably of all colors of the rainbow.) If you didn’t want any of that, why did you hire a PROFESSIONAL?

9- Also, the video team is trained by common sense that the most light skinned girl in the wedding must be the bride, so if you didn’t stay out of the sun and do khaltat bayad al thalj for 7,500 days before your big day, don’t blame anyone but yourself if the camera man focuses on other light-skinned girls instead of you. Ain’t nobody got time for your dark skinned problems. It’s probably also why the makeup artist had to dump a kilo of glitter on your face, so be grateful. If not to her, then at least to your groom who accepted marrying you bi loanik da.

10- If you didn’t notice that there aren’t 10 tips on this list or you don’t mind that there weren’t 10 things as the title promised, that means you’re not detail-oriented and you will be much better suited for a wedding in Sudan. Mabrook in advance بيت مال و عيال

PS Weddings in Sudan really are the best, definitely not aesthetically speaking, but you know what I mean.


Image Credit: still from the sudanese animation video العرس العرس by Tartar Studio

Washington DC Demonstration: When Sudanese Turned Against Sudan

9 Jun

In March of this year, one of Sudan’s tribal leaders opened a charity polyclinic in Dongola, in honor of his late father who has served Sudan and Sudanese people in so many ways until passing away in 1987. In the first day of its opening, 3,000 people in Dongola were seen and treated free of charge by top Sudanese doctors and consultants who flew in especially for the opening. Then this tribal leader continued on with his daily life, doing great tribal leader thangs. Until one day, he was invited by the Sudanese Government (oh, snap) to go to Washington DC to represent his tribe. He dandily accepts, arrives in DC– cane, shawl and all, and strolls towards the White House like the badass tribal leader that he is, along with a number of other honorable tribal leaders from all over Sudan. (namely, Zaghawa tribe, Al Fur, Al Rashaiyda, AlShukria, Rufa3a, and many more)

Except that there was one pesky problem…he and the elders of other Sudanese tribes were harassed by a rally of Sudanese people in DC, who all but threw rocks at them. No really, Sudanese people were harassing their own tribal leaders who belong to ALL sorts of political parties, including being declared opposition.

Now here’s the thing, I’m going to ask you my dear reader to withhold your angry political breath for one second, and remember that Sudan isn’t the government, unless of course you just want to mix the two and basically hand over our culture to the government on a silver platter/sainiyya. That’s your prerogative. Except, if you’re going to use your simpleton George Bushian motto “If you ain’t with us, you’re with the terrorists” mentality just at least remember that these tribal leaders have helped and will continue to help Sudanese people, of their own tribe and other tribes, more than you will in a lifetime with or without Al Bashir.

I’m deeply saddened and embarrassed by what our tribal leaders were subjected to in DC, but I’m affected on a deeper level to see that the lines between Al Watan, our Sudan, and Al hukooma, have been so blurred that this has occurred. No you cannot demand that tribal leaders cannot cooperate with the government. Why? It is the current government. We are ALL cooperating with it. It’s the government because we as a people failed to remove them time and time and time again. Yes, we’re all immensely angry about this, but don’t take out your anger on the wrong people. Especially our own tribal elders, who went to DC to humanize our nation that receives little to no coverage on anything other than negativity. People who are now escorted by American security teams, and had to change their hotels in DC just because they are being harassed and threatened by their own people. What have we become? The question is, what has this rally achieved? What was the point? Other than depressing people who continuously try to help their tribes in the best way they can?

We may have missed a rare opportunity to humanize our Sudan and let our cultural heritage shine in lieu of the constant focus on politics. But we also missed the point- let’s not rise up against each other if we have failed to rise up against our government. And you know why it is important to humanize our Sudan in the US? Because, sanctions. Because that very tribal leader who is trying to treat people via his free clinic in Dongola, desperately needs the US to cease or ease the sanctions that are affecting access to medical equipment needed and generally affecting the lives of the tribe he looks after. At this point, I’ll support any and all efforts to humanize our country and end sanctions, and so should you. So if you’re in DC and like to rally, please use your power to ask the US government to stop sanctioning the innocent. Or at the very least, make some fine shay bil legaimat* and go sit down with your tribal leaders while they’re there, you might catch up on a thing or two about Al Watan rather than being so focused on Al Hukooma.

*actually maybe take them out for some Starbucks, they’ve probably never had it, because, sanctions.

The Real Reason We Got Bombed By Israel

4 Nov

Generally speaking, sweeping generalizations are not entirely true. However, I’m going to make one giant sweeping generalization about the root cause of all, yes all, of Sudan’s problems, and it’s entirely true, trust me. Ladies & gentlemen, the cause of all our woes is: compulsive hoarding. Which is afranji/infedili for: karoar كرور

Allow me to explain how I’ve gradually and over the years reached this eureka moment. During every visit to Sudan, I noticed that people complain about dust or alkatta7a. Most people in Sudan are coated with a thin membrane of dust that gives them a matte finish (by the way, the matte finish is very trendy these days, for cars though not for people.) Inside of houses, the dust problem is compounded as you can clearly see the dust of today, yesterday, and yesteryear congregating over furniture and lurking in every corner of Sudanese homes, no matter how clean. Gradually, I started noticing that dust is collecting over a massive heap of stuff. Every house has a massive heap of stuff with dust. Useless stuff, but year after year, when I make the ziyarat rounds, I notice the same heaps in the same houses collecting the same dust.

It baffles me that everywhere in Sudan there’s pile of… something. Tops of wardrobes in bedrooms are stacked with suitcases stacked with items probably circa British colonialism (AKA  your mother’s mini-skirts and your father’s Charleston pants.) The most important part of every Sudanese home is Al ma5zan, which is usually someone’s room converted into a storage for piles of useless stuff that’s been hoarded since the beginning of time. Or it’s the deep freezer in the kitchen with some leftover kamoniyya from 7 Eids ago.

If you are in doubt that hoarding is a major epidemic in Sudan, walk down the streets of Khartoum and look up at balconies: so much useless clutter. Or better yet stand for 10 minutes in front of Khartoum airport carousels, for any incoming flight, and see the amount of hoarded crap that’s constantly being hoarded into the country.

Why is this so disconcerting? Sudan is drowning in karoar and garbage. On top of that we’re suffocating on dust. And last but not least, it’s the hoarding of anything and everything that has recently gotten us bombed by Israel. Therefore, I hold karoar epidemic responsible for the Israeli bombing of the karoar in Yarmouk, Malaria, the loss of several children who had gone missing between piles of karoar, and every plane crash that was attributed to foul play by the government or incompetence of Sudan Airways, where the real reason was probably an overload of karoar, and last but not least, holding on to a government of karoar for so long.

An Open Letter to Electronic Mujahideen

4 Jul

Dear Electronic Mujahid,

Hello there. Welcome to my blog. Let me preface this letter by saying that in the event that you drop dead while browsing this page, I sincerely hope that you do indeed reach the highest level of Paradise as a reward for your noble jihad(ism?) In case that does not happen, let’s set the record straight.

You are probably here with the sole intention of making us stop speaking our minds both online and offline, probably by way of harming us. Since I am unsure what it is exactly that you want me to stop doing or saying, I decided to write you. The other reason quite frankly is that I think it’s a shame if we do not get to know each other better. You see, me as a blogger, and you as a blogga-hater, we both probably stumble on the same material online and such. What differs is our motivation, and that’s what I would like us to be clear on. Please allow me to start– my motivation is to protect your rights to speak your mind and live a better life. Yes, I see the irony in that but it is the truth. Truth be told, I live quite the comfortable life. Political happenings and economic fluctuations do not so much affect my life as the weather. But unlike the weather, a rainy day is something I can change. Especially when a rainy day turns into a rainy year, decade, or longer as it is. Those less fortunate who have been scrambling to save for a rainy day have now depleted their resources and they need help and shelter. Of course this is just a metaphor, but if you catch my drift, I’d like to ask you not to rain on the parade protesters asking for the protection of basic human rights and improvement of living standards. I’d like to ask you to recognize our shared responsibility towards those who have no shelter from the rain.

I am writing these words as I assure you that I do not want you in prison, not now, and not ever. I do not want you out of the country and I do not want you to wish that upon me and my fellow Sudanese citizens either. I am writing this because I want to walk in the streets of our country without fearing you. I am writing this because I do not understand why you fear me. As I’m writing this, many of my fellows who are fighting for a better life for all sit in jail, possibly because you targeted them.

All I ask of you is that you recognize the difference you can make. Next time you are lurking online and infiltrating sinful online conversations about decent living standards, please think of the motivation of those risking it all, and your motivation to do whatever it is you think is necessary to do. We do not know each other, but I could be your sister, your mother, your daughter, your cousin– because all those people surely do wish a better life for you and everyone else in Sudan.

That is all. Oh and, please consider a career change. There are numerous ways to serve your country and/or get to Paradise.


Sudanese Optimist

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” — Desmond Tutu

5 Sure Tell Signs Your Dictator Is Just Not That Into You

22 Nov

1- He’s Cheating On You With Another Country
You’ve caught him sending gifts of say, 20,000 sheep, to the lovely country next door, whom you’ve always suspected he has a crush on. This is especially hurtful after you’ve boycotted meat because of high prices. You also suspect something bad is going on with a certain Asian country.

2- He Never Listens To You
He’s never there for you when you need him, even though he really has no where to go since Ocampo put him on lock down, so technically, he should have more time for you, but he doesn’t. He has never let you vote on any major or minor decision that affects your future. He has made it clear that your opinion does not matter, and not only that, that he will not tolerate any opinion of yours that conflicts with his.

3- He Hates Your Family
You’ve begged him to get to know your family members better, but he’s been at war with them since the relationship started. Finally, they decided to abandon you and him in a referendum in July 2011. And the zinger? They didn’t even ask you how you felt about it. The whole thing was traumatizing for you but you could swear you heard him mumble ‘fi siteen dahya’

4- He Keeps His Finances Separate
You have been together for over 20 years, however, he still keeps a separate bank account off shore and you are not allowed to even ask about it. He has seen you struggling with your finances, barely making ends meet, yet he refuses to chip in.

5- He Is Physically And Verbally Abusive
At first, you put up with his verbally abusive ways because it was generally directed towards others, sometimes you even felt like he was just trying to protect you. When he told others they are ‘under his shoe’ you questioned yourself but let it go. However, he started being verbally abusive towards you telling to you to lick your elbow and making so many vows (not of the happy matrimony kind) and there’s no stopping his threatening. To add insult to injury, or rather, injury to insult, he is physically abusive towards you whenever you disagree with him.

If your dictator exhibited one or more of the aforementioned signs, it’s time to give him the boot. Find someone who values you. You’re worth it.

Sudanese Film: Faisal Goes West

15 Nov

A while back, I saw the trailer for Machine Gun Preacher [insert massive rant here] and felt a sense of pity for the consistently appalling representation of Sudanese in both Arab and western films. Thankfully, I stumbled on a White-Texan-savior, without a klashinkov in hand, but with a strong message and a beacon of hope for Sudanese cinema in the form of an independent film depicting a Sudanese family’s adjustment to life in America called Faisal Goes West.

Bentley Brown, who has grown up in Chad and worked in Sudan, is the award-winning filmmaker behind Faisal Goes West, or as he is also known as “that khawaja that speaks better Arabic than me.” As an aficionado of independent films and all things Sudan, I was very excited to make a pledge to back the project financially but felt that it’s not enough, so I called up Bentley to see how I can help (Also, I wanted to talk to the khawaja that speaks better Arabic than me, but that’s secondary.)

There are two important points that Bentley clarified: Firstly, this is not just a film about Sudan, this is Sudanese cinema. In large part, the actors, artists, and producers involved in this film are Sudanese. Bentley stressed “Faisal Goes West is Sudanese cinema. Sure, it will be filmed outside of Sudan and away from the grips of the Sudanese government’s chokehold on cinematic expression, but it is a step, nonetheless, Sudanese encouraging one another (and anyone, really) to express themselves through film.” Secondly, this film revolves around the issue of identity, which is a major issue that affects Sudanese people socially and politically. As Bentley put it “in many ways, the story is a global one: family comes to America with high hopes, family hits a wall, family must rebuild in order to survive. Focusing on a coming-of-age character like Faisal offers a beautiful dive into issues of generational clashes, dignity, and identity–this last one is especially important to me, كخواجة متربي في تشاد . It is sad how easily we forget that people are people. Skin color, appearance, language, etc. are merely factors of a humanity that is in a rapid process of mixing and moving. In this sense, the most important issue that Faisal will address is that of identity. What does it mean for Faisal to be Sudanese? To be American? Not to mention the labels society places on him: “African,” “Arab,” “black”…and the list continues.”

Faisal Goes West is an important film, and I am thrilled that someone as talented, well-rounded, and driven as Bentley is leading this production which I am sure will garner international attention and will be, for the first time, a positive representation of Sudanese people in film. In his own words Bentley explains: “Documentaries largely reflect the international community’s interest in Sudan for mere political or feel-good humanitarian reasons–as if Sudan is a constant case study of suffering and people in need, and foreigners can be the ones to help. But I know Sudanese to be different–they are a people extremely diverse in language, background, politics, religion, and one aspect that is rarely conveyed is the sense of communal resilience present across Sudan and the Sudanese diaspora. This is what I want to convey through the characters in the film: a message of persevering, even when hardship catches you by surprise.”

Now that I’ve got you wrapped up in fluffy dreams about seeing a Sudanese film winning in Sundance, I need you to listen up and focus. Faisal Goes West needs your help to become a reality. Bentley is doing his part to bring about positive change for Sudanese people. Here’s what you could do:

– Make a financial pledge here in order to help the project reach its goal. The deadline is November 22nd, 2011.
-Talk about the film with your family, friends, online friends, and imaginary friends–basically everyone. Spread the word!
-Contact Bentley Brown if you have any talents that might be of use to the movie or if you have an important point you would like the movie to cover.
-Change your facebook/twitter profile photo to the movie poster (below) so you can get people asking about the film.

If you don’t do at least one of the above, it might mean Machine Gun Preacher is your favorite movie and you think George Clooney knows everything about ‘the Sudan.’

*Bentley Brown grew up in Ati, Chad, where his parents ran rural medical clinics. You can read more about him here.

UPDATE: The film got fully funded. This is happening. Thank you all for your support.

On Secession: The 5 Stages of Grief

6 Jul

With the independence of South Sudan fast approaching, North Sudanese citizens are coming to terms with the biggest change in the history of their country. For many, supporting independence is bitter-sweet, or tinged with retrospective regret. Others are unconflicted and happy about independence, although the happiness could sometimes be a result of a ‘good riddance’ attitude towards secession. I have observed many emotions and reactions to the independence of South Sudan amongst North Sudanese citizens, and based the following observations on the famous Kübler-Ross model for dealing with loss, commonly known as ‘The Five Stages of Grief.’ These observations are from the perspective of North Sudanese people only since I am assuming that the near unanimous vote for secession by South Sudan is enough proof that they are not considering this a cause for grief–

1- Denial — “Sudan will never separate. The South needs us and we need them.” “They can never run their own country, they have so many tribal issues” “Separation plans are just rumors by outsiders who are trying to destroy Sudan”
This stage sadly lasted from independence, throughout most of the war, until the signing of the CPA agreement when some people’s perception of a unified Sudan was rattled. A pivotal point was the death of John Garang, where the vision of unity for many people died with him.

2- Anger — “Why do they(the South) want to separate from us (the North) they are traitors!” “Why do they think we treat them badly?” “They are destroying our country and being very unpatriotic and selfish.” “Let them go to their country, they were depleting our resources and taking our jobs anyway.”
I believe this stage actually lingered quite a bit for most Sudanese people, ultimately causing feelings of resentment towards the South, which only acted as a catalyst to the South seeing the necessity of indepenendnce, evident by the referendum vote for secession. Anger, bitterness, and feelings of betrayal caused many to look for ways to justify the impending division of Sudan. I have heard everything from African Union conspiracy theories to the usual and necessary ‘blame it on I-I-I-Israel!’

3- Bargaining — “Parliamentary seats? Here South, take these 40 extra seats”; “Power of veto over constitutional changes? You got it!” “Let’s not discuss Abyei right now, it’s going to be alright, we promise”
Some, namely Sudanese politicians, reached this stage months if not years before the referendum, when many were still in denial. They knew what was coming and began utilizing every propaganda tool to make unity appealing for all. Suddenly we began to see more South Sudanese representation on Sudan TV, billboards calling for a United Sudan popped up all over Khartoum, and many promises were made for the improvement of conditions of South Sudanese citizens. However, not all bargaining efforts were necessarily positive or advantageous for South Sudan, as there were some brinkmanship attempts and political pressure. Needless to say, all efforts proved ineffective.

4- Depression — “This is very disheartening, I’m losing my country, my people” “John Garang died and so did a united Sudan”; “I have always loved the South and I am so depressed over losing them”
The silence of many Sudanese might have been interpreted as apathy, but many of them were in fact simply dismayed and severely hurt not only because they are losing Sudan as they know it, but because they felt too helpless and powerless to do anything about it. Many Sudanese people completely disconnected themselves from the issue in order to cope with the grave reality of their beloved country falling apart. (I sincerely hope that no one felt this depression about the economic shock Sudan will endure as a result of $2-$3 billion annual oil revenue losses. Really guys, it’s no big deal. I’m fine without that money. Whatever, no biggie. No really…. who cares? *cries my capitalist self to sleep*)

5- Acceptance “The South deserves a shot an independence.” “I am happy for them and truly wish them the best” “Regardless of my stance on secession, I will support their decision”
This is the last stage of dealing with bereavement. At this point, nothing can be done, we can’t reverse the votes, we can’t change their minds, all we can do is respect their wishes and support them in the development of their new country.

Personally I think I went through the five stages a bit out of order. Whatever stage you’re on, please make sure you strive to reach acceptance by July 9th, 2011, at this stage, I think the best Sudan can do is wish South Sudan all the best and promise not to rain on their independence parade.