"Sudanese Weddings" Top 5 Page for this destination Sudan Travelogue by uglyscot

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A Sudanese wedding is unlike a western wedding. First the preparations begin weeks beforehand, especially for the bride herself. Where practicable she does not leave the house so that her colour will become paler. She will do a routine of beauty treatments like rubbing her skin daily with 'dilka' a paste of dough and spices and ground sandalwood, so that she is exfoliated and her skin becomes soft . Immediately before the wedding she will have a complete body sugaring treatment, and will have daily smoke baths using 'talih' and 'shaaf' (acacia wood)which will scent and colour her skin.
Finally she will have henna applied to her hands and feet in a decorative pattern. This will either be reapplied until it becomes black, or a modern method using chemicals will be used.


Both bride and groom will have their own henna parties. Friends and relatives will celebrate , and there will be singing and dancing. In towns the popular singers may be hired, or a female singer with drum accompaniment will sing traditional wedding songs
Some of the women dance with their head and neck thrown back, or trip like pigeons with their chests thrown out.

Groom's breakfast

In the morning of the wedding day, the bride's family may send the 'groom's breakfast'. The actual ingredients will probably have been sent by the groom's family as part of the 'shayla', but prepared at the bride's house. A car or pickup will take the food , accompanied by women ululating and singing, for the groom's family to feed their guests.
The food is normally aseeda and mulah, fava beans, olives, salad, taamia [falafel], eggs,, pizza, cheese and olives,
Then sweet pastries and cookies may also be sent.
Some people present the women who bring the food with a gold ring each ; others leave the utensils as a gift, but if the utensils are old and not expected to be kept, then a money gift will be given.

The real 'shayla' takes place some time before the wedding. Women from the groom's side arrange to bring the gifts to the bride's house. they bring gold, ingredients to make perfume [sandalwood, spices etc], commercially made perfumes, and the dowry which is usually a large amount of money.

Just before the wedding foodstuffs , rams and , charcoal are brought to make the wedding feast.. On the day of the wedding loads of fruit will also be taken to the bride's house.


The actual contract [agid] will be done in the mosque.A representative from each side will join hands while the maazoun recites the necessary verses.
After the contract has been signed someone will fire shots from a rifle to let the women know that the contract is signed. Trays of dates, sweets and cookies are passed round in the mosque, and also in the house where the bride's family are waiting with the guests.


If the agid is signed after Friday prayers, people will then gather in colourful tents set up in the street for lunch, while the women may eat in the house. Trays of food are carried out and groups will share the food on the tray. A tray accommodates 10 people . Normally this consists of meat, chicken, fish and stews and salads. There is always enough as the invitation is open for friends, relatives and even passers by may stop and come in.

Jirtig, dancing

The order of events after the contract varies from one family to another. If the bridal couple are travelling for their honeymoon the events may all be done the same day, if not some will be carried over to the next day. I will just describe one alternative.
After eating lunch, the groom goes to collect his bride - usually from a friend's house. She will be wearing a red tobe and be dripping with gold [her own or borrowed from relatives]. He will be wearing a jellabia and a skull cap. A red scarf with a gold crescent pinned on it will be tied in a bandanna round his head. The groom will carry a sword which he waves to the crowd. The bride may then begin to dance. If this is the case, no males except her young brothers will be present, only women. This is because traditionally her dress will be skimpy, showing as much flesh as is decent to prove she has no deformities. Her dancing, to the accompaniment of a series of songs by a singer, is usually very erotic.
After the dancing the couple are made to sit side by side at the end of a heavily decorated bed. Special paste is put on their heads, special amulets are tied to their wrists and upper arms, and round their necks. Incense will be burning and creating smoke.
They are then to sit under a multi-coloured silk shawl. Each is given a mouthful of milk to hold in his/her mouth. When the shawl is removed they blow the milk at each other. The one who scores the first hit is the winner, the one who will be the boss in the marriage. This ceremony is called 'jirtig'.
The groom will then spray or splash perfume around. So, watch your eyes, it can blind you and is very painful. Then he throws sweets.
All this is accompanied by joyful ululations by the women.

The couple then retire to change their clothes .The bride into a white wedding dress, the groom a suit. The bride has to have her hair and make up done.
In the evening the guests meet at a club ,or at one of the houses, for the party. A band performs, the couple dance and greet their friends who come to congratulate them as they sit on chairs on a decorated podium.
Supper is brought, this time 'cocktail' which is a prepared plate with pieces of meat, fish , chicken, cheese, salad, pickles, taamiya, pasta or fruit; and a bottle of Pepsi or other bottled drink.

Everyone gets up and joins in the dancing, until it is time [11 pm] for the bridal couple to leave to a hotel or the airport ; or the party may continue in the bride's house.
The houses of the bride and groom are usually decorated with fairy lamps, and a large colourful tent may be set up to accommodate the guests during the day. There may be several thousand guests, and for several days people will come and go offering congratulations.
A wedding will cost several million Sudanese pounds in Khartoum; but in the country districts it will be simpler and less expensive.
Nowadays there may be group weddings when philanthropists pay for a wedding for many couples, but this not very frequent.

  • Page Updated Nov 18, 2009
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