Sudan - Dervishes
Towards 1600 I ventured out. I wanted to get to see the Friday afternoon Whirling Dervishes in Omdurman, on the other side of town and thought I would use the "trick" I had learnt the previous evening. After a few attempts I successfully waved down a Toyota pick up truck and asked for a lift. Luckily the driver was going my way and spoke excellent English. He invited me into the cab and we had quite a chat. He was a university lecturer and very kindly drove me through the back streets to a Muslim cemetery that I'm not at all sure I would have found on my own. The ground was enormous, mostly graves with the occasional mausoleum. It was late afternoon but still too hot to be waiting around in the sun. I found a stall serving tea and sat in the shade and chatted with the locals. English is widely taught in schools often by volunteer teachers from UK. The Sudanese were very friendly and ready to try out their English. Many I spoke to could remember their teacher's name and hometown and expected me to know them.
An hour or so before sundown people gathered around the Hamed el-Nil Mosque I must admit to not being clear about who were participants and who were spectators. There were clearly a few holy men, a few musicians and a few men with unkempt hair and colourful gowns that I assumed would soon be whirling. Neither did I fully get to the bottom of whether the whirling was a performance or a prayer, worship or meditation. All people could tell me was that they whirled themselves into a higher level of oneness with their god. Apparently it is not exclusively a Muslim thing. Christians do it too. Looking around there were many local people there to witness the event and also a few minibus-loads off westerners. The masses formed a clearing and the holy men, musicians and dervishes paraded around, the latter getting increasingly frenetic. People clapped in rhythm and everyone seemed to be glowing in the spirit of the occasion. As the dancing got wilder the energy passed through us all. They seemed to be no longer with us, no longer conscious and yet not out of control. They dropped to the ground, jumped in the air, and spun around on the spot all the time the dust being kicked up.
On the way back I stopped at an outdoor restaurant by the roadside and enjoyed a gorgeous piece of barbequed chicken washed down with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. In fact the food in Sudan was generally simple but superb.
Sudan - Dervishes