17 January 2018


(Credit: Flickr/weddingssc6)

The other day I was talking to an aunt in Sudan who had attended eleven different functions within seven days, including: a henna party (a pre-marriage ceremony), a groom’s breakfast, the funeral of some distant relative, another funeral of her sister’s neighbours in another city for which she had to travel three hours each way, a wedding reception, a birth, a simaya (a post-birth function) of the same lady who gave birth, a university graduation, a visit to the daughter of a cousin who broke her leg, plus she had an upcoming wedding and a jirtiq, which is another wedding function for the guy who had that groom’s breakfast (see above). I told her if she keeps doing this, her next function would be her own funeral!

Why does everyone have to attend everything in Sudan?! There is this very Sudanese habit, the ”endless circle of blame,” particularly among the ladies. Somehow they can (within an insignificant period of time) do statistical calculations for a thousand people at once, figuring out exactly who didn’t come, who came, how long they stayed – and what they were wearing.

So it doesn’t matter if you were far away, busy, sick, or if you have terminal cancer; as long as you get invited, you can’t run and you can’t hide. You just have to get up and go. Otherwise it will be mentioned at your funeral. You’ll be the “God-have-mercy-on-him…BUT-wallahi-he-didn’t-even-come-to-my-cousin’s-neighbour’s-classmate’s-wedding” guy. Not attending a function is the sin of all sins, and will be remembered long after your death.

At the same time, even if you want to do something as simple as scratching your left ear in Sudan, you either invite ALL of your family, friends, neighbours, classmates since kindergarten, the milk guy, the tea lady, the komsari, the tableya guy who sells Bringi cigarettes – along with all of their extended families – or you can brace yourself for when a friend inevitably posts “congratulations” on your Facebook wall, exposing you and messing everything up. In Sudan, no matter what the occasion, where it is, how well you know the invitees or even whether you like them or can afford to invite them, there is no excuse but to invite them all.

In all seriousness though, my personal opinion is that if only people would stop the excessive mujamalat and cut down on these unnecessary visits, Awadea wouldn’t have to spend half of her remaining wealth on her husband’s funeral, Dr. Hassan would have opened his private clinic and gotten married two years earlier (but instead he invited eight hundred people, out of which six hundred were there only because he “had” to invite them and they “had” to come), and Abdu wouldn’t still be in debt just because of a simaya last year.

Most importantly, if people would stop caring about unnecessary attendance, personal occasions would be less financially exhausting, and more convenient and personal. And if no one was forced to invite or to be invited, both the invitees and the invited would have a real (or at least a less-fake) smile on their faces.

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