By: Tayeb Salih.
During a discussion in Washington, Dr Mohamed Khair osman, was critical of me for writing in my critical approach for the educational policy adopted by those brothers of ours in the government of Sudan, who under the pretext of effecting an educational revolution have, haphazardly inaugratd a number of universities, even Gedarif now has a university, the University of Gedarif. Gedarif is located in Eastern Sudan, and is famous for sesame cultivation and for the renowned song: the sesame of Gedarif, the beloved one is youth and innocent. It is also the homeland of our friends Dr Mohamed Khair Osman. I was never in the town myslf. My knowledge about it is based on hear-says. Thus I had requested him to describe this town for me. He did write this sugary description that am going to publish, abridged, for lack of space. But my apologies go to the citizens of Gedarif town itself.
Originally,Gedarif’s name is derived from a series of sharp and meandering hills that lie to the East side of it’s boundary. The other meaning of Gedarif is Gedaroof Saad . This was presumably a Coptic man , who first cultivated guava and other exotic citrus fruits that were imported from the Mediterranean countries to keep with the demand of Sudanese affluent of capital –cities. Gedarif to most Sudanese is , once recognizable as Souk Abu-sin –Abu-sin bazaar. Abu-sin of Shukriya tribe, our kinship, who resided in Eastern Sudan but there is an extension of that dynastic stock at Rufaa.
The native people of Gedarif encompassed those who remained from the posterity of soldiers and officers at the garrison established by Muhammad Ali , the viceroy of Egypt to secure Eastern Sudan frontier. Their progenies came out of a contingent of Kurds, Turks, Caucasus, Circasions and Albanians. Gedarif also had genial and peaceful communities from Greece, Cypriot , the grand Maghreb, Abyssinia, Somalia and countless groups of West Africa.
From this unique mosaic creation in Gedarif crucible, had a risen minarets, crescents, banners and crucifixes hugging each other passionately in a race to heaven. That sums up the meaning of Gedarif. Gedarif was the cement that held them together.
Deep into the rainy Gedarif night , I hear the sound of thunder interrupted by the rising voice of my father as he recited sura of Quran “And Ar-Ra‘d (thunder) glorifies and praises Him, and so do the angels because of His Awe. He sends the thunderbolts, and therewith He strikes whom He wills, yet they (disbelievers) dispute about Allâh”. I also hear the whisper of my mother ‘ keel ya Michael , bi Al-mad Al-kabir ” in her simple and honest invocation to God and the angel of rain to splash a copious quantity of rain.
The ancient city of Gedarif was a bizarre blend of races. There were Rubatab ,Shayegya , Arab tribes of North Sudan, Danagla, Nubian folk of mixed Arab and African ancestry. One of the most family branches of ,Shayegya is the dynasty of El-khalifa Taha Awad . He was a bluff man , our grandfather but his grandfather’s pedigree descended from Jaalin tribe of Northern Sudan . one of his follies is that: his folk of Jaalin at a place called El-fadlab Om El-tiyoor supported his blood brother in a case of an inherited land. As he lost after fussing over the plot of land , ” I live among,Shayegya but not among you ” he said to his Jaalin relatives.
From this unique mosaic creation in Gedarif crucible, had a risen minarets, crescents, banners and crucifixes hugging each other passionately in a race to the heaven. That sums up the meaning of Gedarif. Gedarif was the cement that held them together.
Deep into the rainy Gedarif night , I hear the sound of thunder interrupted by the rising voice of my father as he recited sura of Quran “ And thunder glorifies and praises Him, and so do the angels because of His Awe. He sends the thunderbolts, and therewith He strikes whom He wills, yet they (disbelievers) dispute about Allâh.” I also hear the whisper of my mother ‘ keel ya Michael , bi El-mad El-kabir ” in her simple and honest invocation to God and the angel of rain to splash a copious quantity of rain.
Geadref in it’s golden era of post war- and until more recently- was the bride of Sudanese Economy if you like . The mechanized farming started in Gedarif to be deployed and flourished there . The enlightenment increased and the population grew. In Sudan , Gedarif became the destination of the country’s investors. They found a place to live within the pleasant and hospitable city. In that era in the wake of first –rate public educational services , the population growth along with the economic prosperity and public awareness provided the essential elements for a genuine Educational Revolution.
The board of education reminded me not only of the biggest corporate boards but also of the most prestigious universities senates. It included Aw lad Al-balad or the sons of the soil, khawajat ,white persons or European and the Sudanese representing the farmers, the city’s richest merchants the elites. Education was based on decentralized system which I had never known except in Britain, America and Switzerland .
In fact ,government-subsidized education sprouted as small grass in an oasis . Gedarif championed the first public intermediate , secondary school and even University is native by all criteria.
Gedarif was Eastern Sudan’swalking stick. It is the homeland where somewhere journalists and poets grew and stood out prominent figures such as the journalists Al-reifi, Abdullah Rajab anda robust, albeit little known, poet Al-salambi Ibrahim Awad Bashir. Gedarif is where sung Abdel Karim Al-kabli the fine and cultured Singer.
Muhammad Khayr Osman.