Eid in Khartoum: Past & Present

Gathering for eid prayer

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW) — Sudan and the Moslem World are celebrating the Eid El-Fitr festivity , an occasion God-given for innocent merry- making after a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.
On such an occasion people usually like to compare what happens today with what it was in the past.
Older Khartoum dwellers note a difference in the amount of festivity during the Eid from what used to happen in the past. They, for instance , cite the wide urbanization that has now permeated the city , changing it from just small locality in which people were familiar to each other, into a big mass of buildings and people. They say Khartoum, with the growing number of high-rise buildings everywhere, has become a true ‘’concrete jungle’’, a name in the past given to the New Extension’’, that has now been actually dwarfed by the modern city around it .
This vast urbanization is said to have had its impact on human behavior , decreasing the intimate interconnection among relatives and acquaintances.
But despite these serious developments, the Eid receives due celebration from families and their children. Families do their utmost to put their homes in order. They repair and paint their home , especially from the inside, change bed covers, and buy new or , at least, refurbish old furniture.
Children in particular seem to enjoy the utmost from this holy occasion. Days before the Eid , they start to nag their parents about the need for new clothes for the merry event. Demands , of course, include new shoes and such accessories as sunglasses and watches (for both males and females ) and cosmetics for the fair sex, in particular. Such gifts are not the responsibility of parents alone, but relatives (uncles, cousins and older brothers) often have to dig in their pockets to please the young ones in what is known as ‘’Eidiyya” or Eid handout.
Children also pressure their families to hurry up with the preparation of biscuits and cakes for the occasion. Before the baking day a housewife readies well measured ingredients for the baking. Usually housewives prefer to do the baking by themselves. They do this in groups. Neighbors usually help a certain neighbor with the laborious job. Later on they shift to another home to help another housewife with the baking and so on.

The baking day is indeed a busy day for children, male and female. They standby to do errands to and from the shops and when the product is ready they can take it to the local bakery , if need be. But many families now have their own electrical or, even, traditional furnaces.
But this intimacy among the neighbors is no longer like in the old days. This reflects on the way the baking is done. Some families now tend to buy ready-made cakes instead of making them at home. Here some manufacturers seized the opportunity and set plants to do the job.
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The Eid is also an occasion for travel out of Khartoum. Days before the happy event bus terminals are congested with passengers wishing to go to their home towns and villages to spend the holiday with the rest of the family. And if the parents are alive, the journey back home becomes imperative. This mass exodus usually leaves Khartoum, according to unofficial estimates, with less than half of its population, an average of 7.5-8 million. But of course this is short-lived as those who left would soon return back to take up their business in either the private or the public sector. The passage to rural areas on the occasion of the Eid is not, alas! without some tragic accidents. It was not unusual until recently to hear about whole buses turning into accidents with commuters losing their lives. This prompted authorities to adopt a twofold strategy: provide incentives for the bus owners to know that even if the buses return to Khartoum empty from their destinations in rural areas they will not incur any losses. The prices of tickets from Khartoum to any area are doubled. So a bus owner will return to Khartoum knowing he will make the loss. The second is regulatory.

Due to this rush and for fear of road accidents, authorities had used of late to step in and schedule the bus journeys. Buses are organized in convoys by the traffic police in order to keep drivers within specified speed limits and prevent could-be catastrophic takeovers. This leads to a lot of delay. But passengers would naturally want to have a safe passage to and from their homes.
Compared with the past, travel around Sudan has become easy and fast, thanks to the growing number of national highways and the sophisticated passenger buses now in service. A journey that took two days by train or lorry in the past now takes less than half a day due to these developments and innovations.
The Eid is still an opportunity for human interaction in most areas of Sudan. After the Eid prayer it is common for the worshipers to team up in groups and move around from door-to-door offering congratulations to the neighbors, visiting the sick or just saying hello to the elders who feel very happy for the gesture. Having finished with this tour, the neighbors may gather together to have the Eid breakfast. After some rest the parents leave their home and go around to congratulate relatives in outlying areas.
Children like games and playful activity. In the past children used to journey by bus to the few parks in Khartoum. But by the growing number of parks around the city, children can just trek for one nearby. Women and girls sometimes like these outings and it is now common to see families scattered around the parks. Very often these families carry their meals with them, just for a change and to break the routine.
One of the most successful businesses during the eid occasion is hinna drawing. Sudanese women are very keen to put hinna on their hands and feet as a gesture of festivity. The society might excuse those who don’t mind using hinna on the other days of the year but if a woman fails to put on the decorative hina during the eid, she will be presumed by any observer as being in a state of mourning, mostly over a close relative. Women throng the hinna houses or coiffure in the days that precede eid day waiting for their turn for long hours, some are reportedly staying the whole day or night to receive the service, at whooping prices. In the past women used to put simple hinna drawing by themselves or their relatives and neighbours. Today the process involve complicated drawing, with inspiration coming from varied countries and far away communities.

The clothes market has seen a lot of changes. In the past children had to queue at tailors shops to see their new garments finished. But now garments are obtained ready-made from manufacturers in South-East Asia. Even caps which were made by elderly women and girls in the past are now largely imported. Imported turbans and shawls have stifled the market of local tailors. But there is still some fancy for locally made shoes, especially those crafted from cow and reptile hides in Darfur.
wrapped and unwrapped sweets clog the corridors of shopping areas. People just buy without knowing the product’s source or validity.
TV channels, days ahead, prepare their programs for the event. Girls, in particular, constitute the major audience for these TV shows. For while parents go around visiting relatives girls stay behind, making a good audience for these TV channels.