Marriage Rituals in Darfur

Darfur customs

It was an honor to have Rasheeda Ahmed share Sudanese customs with us. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Due to some canceled flights, I ended up arriving in Darfur on a Thursday. This meant I would be spending the next two days not doing too much, as the weekend in Sudan falls on Friday and Saturday. I wasn’t too thrilled, especially with temperatures regularly soaring over 100 degrees.

Thankfully, a new American staff member, Rachel Hermes, arranged for me to visit a school in a camp for displaced students on Saturday. Two other Sudanese staff members, Rasheeda Ahmed and Aziza Ahmed, agreed to join us on their day off. And after our meeting, Rasheeda invited us back to her home.

Eight and a half months pregnant and recently married, Rasheeda wanted to show us the traditional products Sudanese women prepare for marriage and birth. First she brought out two bottles of perfume, one a lemony yellow, the other a deep brown. Even though they are really only for married women, Rachel and I made good use of them, following instructions to splash the oils generously under our armpits.

Then Rasheeda brought out a glass jar of long chips of sandalwood coated in sugar. These chips are burned in a small clay dish, which is covered by a dome “cage” of light flexible wood. Rasheeda spreads her clothes on top of the cage so they absorb the fragrant smoke—another tradition done only by married women.

Next came a big glass jar of what looked like soil. This was potato and sorghum, cooked, seared and smashed into small crumbs. After adding a little oil and water to the mixture, married women rub it into their skin to make it smooth—especially when visitors come to see the new baby. I had my doubts watching Rachel trying to massage some of the grittier pieces into her forearm, but Rasheeda’s flawless skin made me a believer.

Now I have a little bit of Darfur that is returning home with me to Nairobi: a small bottle of perfume that will bring back memories of amazing women.

Reported by Debbie DeVoe, CRS’ regional information officer for Eastern and Southern Africa

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