Holidays in Sudan
There are two great Muslim religious holidays celebrated in Sudan - Ramadan Bairam and Kurban Bairam, which are Turkish names for the Muslim festivals and are borrowed from the days of the Turkiyya after the conquest of the Sudan by Mohamed Ali in 1821.
The most common greeting in Arabic used on holidays is Kul sana wa inta tayeb or Kul sana wa inta be kheir, roughly may each year find you well and prosperous, or one can simply say “Eid Mabrouk”. Ramadan Bairam is more commonly referred to in Sudan as Eid Ramadan or Eid al Fitr (the feast of the breaking of the fast) and Eid al saghayyir (the little feast). This holiday takes place at the end of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. Ramadan lasts for a full lunar month, 29-30 days. All Muslims except travelers, pregnant women, sick people and children under 13 years of age are required to obstain from ingesting anything: food, water or any drinks, including alcohol or tobacco from just before sunrise until sunset.
Fasting is obviously a hardship, especially if Ramadan takes place during the really hot dry months of April, May or June. It is also a time for short tempers and for dispirited efficiency. Non-Muslims should not eat, drink or smoke in the presence of a Muslim during daylight hours. It is, however, not a punishable offense in Sudan. When making calls during Ramadan, some Sudanese hosts may insist that their American guests partake of some tea or some other refreshment. The best rule of thumb is to decline, but some Sudanese hosts will insist while seeing others drinking or eating. The nights of Ramadan are characterized by a holiday mood accompanied by huge meals, especially the
“fatour” (breakfast) which begins as soon as the “Mou’azzin”, a cannon shot has announced sunset and end of fasting.
Ramadan ends with a celebration. The Eid Al Ramadan begins on the first day following the night in which the new moon has been sighted, thus marking the end of the month of Ramadan. The holiday extends from three to four days. It is an occasion of great feasting and visiting of friends and neighbors. Household help (even non-Muslims) will expect leave with pay and a gratuity.
Kurban Bairam, more commonly called Eid al Kabier (the big festival) takes place on the tenth Muslim month of Zu al Hajj (the month of the pilgrimage to Mecca). This commemorates the day when those who made the pilgrimage to Mecca will have assembled in the nearby village of Medina where each pilgrim will sacrifice an animal on this occasion. In Sudan, every family who can will slaughter a ram. This festival lasts for four to five days and is an occasion for feasting and visiting relatives and friends, including an occasional American. Once again, household help will expect two or more days of leave and gratuity.
Moulid Al Nabi (The Prophet’s Birthday). The celebration of the Prophet Mohamed’s birthday, although not one of the orthodox holidays of Islam, has become an accepted popular holiday. The Prophet’s Birthday takes place about ninety days after Eid Al Kabier. There are public celebrations at Saggana Square in Khartoum, Al Khalifa Mosque in Omdurman and in the town square - south of Mazad in Khartoum North, where much of the major Muslim religious sects set up their tents. Thousands of people assemble at the public square closest to their home to enjoy entertainment, greet friends and partake of sweets and refreshments.
Sham Al Nassim (Spring Holiday) is the first Monday following Easter. The origin of the holiday is obscure but is believed to be descended from one of the ancient Egyptian festivals in connection with the beginning of spring. This is a non-religious non-national general public holiday, designed mainly to give a welcome break to the tedium of work. It is very much a family holiday and many families pack picnic lunches and spend a day in shaded areas by the river. It is also referred to as the day to “sniff the breezes”.
The information on holidays was taken from Maria Baba’s CROSS CULTURAL STUDY OF KHARTOUM, April 1981 mimeograph.