29 December, 2010

Reflections on Sudan

With less than two weeks to go to the Southern Sudanese referendum on independence, the largest country in Africa is getting very close to its most defining moment since its creation. I, like many people, can not help in pondering about Sudan. There is a side and other aspects of Sudan that few people outside it, know of or think of.

A few days ago, I was watching a discussion on one of the main Arabic News channels, and the presenter wrongly insisted that - should the South opt for independence, which most likely they will do, the Blue Nile will be in the South. I was very surprised with this lack of  knowledge about Sudan, even by those like TV presenters who are supposed to have all the main facts. There are many other things about the country that most people out of Sudan have very little knowledge of.

Although very few tourists ever visit Sudan, it has magical ancient mysteries about pharaohs similar to Egypt; at one time, in the 8th century BC - the pharaohs from Nubia, Sudan, conquered Egypt and controlled it for a century. It too, of all the Arab countries has more fresh water; much more abundant and varied wildlife; and a most fertile land; even if the South separates - these facts will remain the same. As for being unique, no country in Africa or the Arab world and probably on the whole earth - is as diverse as it is. Of its about 40 million inhabitants, it has over 400 languages and dialects.

There is more to Sudan, than wars, refugees and the referendum; most of which will not change whatever changes happen there. There is the music: most of its music is like no other in the Arab world. Sudanese main-stream music is more akin to Ethiopian and Somali; and incredibly, it is very much like Indian, Chinese and South Asian in sound. Whoever likes international music would know of: the golden voice of the highly acclaimed and sucessful Muhammad Wardi; or of Abdel Gader Salim, the world traveling performer; or of AbdelKarim AlKabli - the poet, composer and one of the greatest players of oud of all time; or of Ahmed Abdul-Malik - the Sudanese king of jazz and is almost as good with oud as Alkabli; or of the great flutist and composer Hafiz Abdel Rahman -  whose exceptionally beautiful music is incomparable to none.

Ever heard of Alek Wek? That stunning, exotic beautiful cat-walk supermodel? And for those who love sports, especially basket ball, they know of how much those from Sudan have contributed to it; how can we forget Luol Deng or the late Manute Bol or the others. As for Sudanese literature, it is a world of its own; to mention just a few of its superb writers: Tayeb al-Saleh, Malkat Ed-Dar Muhammad and the very gifted Taban Lo Liyong. No matter what, Sudan will always be a land of people; some famous and most, just simple people who are trying to get on with the daily business and chores of life.

Know more about Sudan: Sudan Net, NationMaster, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia