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Nomadic Life in Sudan

With all of this talk of nomadic watering holes, I realized I should discuss the nomads themselves some more. The nomads in Sudan were very interesting to me. I’d first encountered nomads in Afghanistan and have been fascinated by them ever since. Perhaps it is the simplistic beauty of their minimalist lifestyle or the fact that every facet of their lives seems like it should be in National Geographic magazine or maybe it is their incredible hospitality or perhaps it is because they get to spend so much of their time with goats. Or maybe it is all of those and a number of other factors as well. I can’t always explain my interests and fascinations in an articulate manner.

nomads-bayuda-desert-sudan

The first thing I noticed about the nomads was their uncanny ability to pop up just about anywhere.

After driving for hours through this (see below), one does not expect to park and suddenly have a nomad casually walk out of the bushes:

nomadic life sudan

Yet, that is exactly what happened:

nomads-bayuda-desert-sudan

Even more surprising was this instance when we stopped to eat our lunch and this nomad appeared out of nowhere with a tea tray to welcome his visitors:

nomads-bayuda-desert-sudan

One can gain a much broader insight into the nomadic lifestyle by visiting the homes of the nomads though. So, below, I will profile three nomadic families we stopped and visited with (Many others were visited, but I took the most pictures with the three below).

Some characteristics are universal: They all live in huts made of sticks and brush as these can easily be abandoned or transported.

Occasionally the long journey will be made to the nearest village to sell a sheep or a goat for something like soap or vegetable oil. Interestingly, there are no fruit or vegetables in their diet. They subsist on meat and sorghum.

This is the home of Family 1. As you can see, it is quite modest by Western standards:

nomadic-life-sudan

Nevertheless, this home provides the necessary shelter from the sun and the very occasional rainstorm and ably contains the essentials of the nomadic lifestyle – the water jugs hanging from the ceiling, a couple of pots and pans and bed frames:

nomadic-life-sudan

This is the interior of the smaller building:

nomadic-life-sudan

And these small structures do indeed serve as ‘home sweet home’ for this family:

nomadic-life-sudan

This woman with the goats around her is the matriarch of the family:

nomadic-life-sudan

nomadic-life-sudan

Now, you are probably thinking that her face is a wreck. And I agree with you, however, believe it or not, this was done on purpose. The women of the tribes in the area use knives to carve scars in their cheeks that denote lineage, tribe membership, status and more:

nomadic-life-sudan

Her daughter (below) wanted no part of the face carving though…

I ended up feeling like a douchebag with the daughter. Dear readers, you probably think that your editor finds nothing but success with women, but he does stumble from time to time. And the girl below represents one of those occasions.

When we exited the vehicle upon arriving, I was chewing a piece of gum. Upon being introduced to the girl in red she pointed to her mouth in a gesture I took to mean that she was asking me for a piece of gum. I pointed to my mouth to confirm that she did indeed want some gum and she smiled and nodded. So, I returned to the truck and retrieved not just one piece of gum for her, but two whole packs of gum!

Thinking I would do my small part to improve American/Sudanese relations and would leave this particular girl permanently smitten with me, I was somewhat surprised to see the flicker of disappointment on her face as I proudly handed her the two packs of gum.

I pondered my rejection as she ignored me for the rest of our visit, only to have the nature of my mistake revealed to me when Ramadan, our guide and driver, handed over several large bags of food to thank the family for their hospitality. It was food she wanted, not fucking gum:

nomadic-life-sudan

This is the home of Family 2:

nomadic-herders

Here is a view of the interior. That’s a tangle of goats on the floor:

nomadic-herders

Family 2 was a large family:

nomadic-herders

nomadic-herders

And the girls drew endless entertainment from trying on the Italian’s sunglasses:

nomadic-herders-sudan

nomadic-herders-sudan

And, of course, despite water being such a precious resource to these nomadic families, tea was immediately prepared for us:

nomadic-herders-sudan

nomadic-herders-sudan

nomadic-herders-sudan

Family 3 was even larger than Family 2. And they had more goats.

Here are some pictures of the interior of the home:

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

I took this picture of the roof to show you how the roofs and walls are constructed of brush the nomads are able to scavenge:

nomads-sudan

And this is their goat corral:

nomads-sudan

Meet Family 3:

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

nomads-sudan

Not a bad life, is it? Goats, freedom, no schedules, no mortgage payments, no taxes here… Talk about a libertarian paradise!

Are you ready to pack it all in, dear readers, and head out to the desert with some goats?

It’s a tough life. One family we met had run out of water and had to beg water off of us. The men had gone off to retrieve some water from a spring, but they had been gone for days and the family was in quite desperate circumstances when we arrived.

And, of course, there are no hospitals or schools out here. What’s the need for an education though?

They want to stay with the animals which, aside from goats, also include sheep, camels and donkeys.

Nomadic life in the Bayuda desert of Sudan

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3 thoughts on “Nomadic Life in Sudan

  1. I would love to work and live with this people and support in the sector of education and human and animal health.

    Regards
    Daniel Padwa
    Chief Executive officer
    NIGGAT TRUST FUND FOUNDATION
    +254717632247

  2. Thank you for this and Ibeen there we dig a water well in Wadi abu Siba in 2007 we install asubmersible pump with Gen and its soing very well ( Iam amember of manasir commite) who struggle against the Gov to locate our people around the reservoir and at the same time give hand to our people in Bauyda desert which it will be the target for the New industery mainley building material and Mining

  3. Pingback: The Grapes Of Turpan | The Velvet Rocket

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