KHARTOUM (Sudanow): Several requests have been received at Sudanow desk from interested readers suggesting scientific exploration of the use of acacia wood by Sudanese women for cosmetic and therapeutic purposes and how they use it in what is traditionally known as the “dukhan”, which may translate in English as “scented smoke sauna of the body”.
In response, Sudanow arranged an interview with Sudanese expert cosmetician and beautician Zainab Abdel Gadir, owner of a Moroccan bath and sauna salon in Khartoum North (Bahri), where she talked to Sudanow about the uses and benefits of the traditional Sudanese Dukhan “scented smoke sauna”, in relation to other types of modern cosmetics.
Expert cosmetician and beautician Zainab Abdel Gadir explained that although many Sudanese traditions and customs were overridden by modern lifestyles, the Dukhan pit is still holding ground as a favorite cosmetic and therapeutic choice for Sudanese women, especially before wedding ceremony and during postnatal period. This dukhan tradition dates back thousands of years, where it has been inherited by one generation from another, over ages.
Actually, the ritual of dukhan (or scented smoke sauna) represents a dividing line, for Sudanese females, between premarital and marital life. The Dukhan ritual is considered as the first landmark on the way to marital life, where a betrothed girl usually undergoes this ritual within the month immediately preceding the wedding ceremony.
Upon betrothal and fixing of the wedding day, the betrothed girl would be confined to the house for one month, where she starts the dukhan (body smoking) programme in preparation for her wedding day.
It is noteworthy that the dukhan rituals may vary from one region to another within Sudan, but the most notable and common aspect of these rituals is what is known as Shilat Al-Dukhan (i.e. the dukhan package), where a group of girls and women of the fiancé’s family, i.e. relatives of the would-be bridegroom, would bring to the fiancée’s dwelling place a package of all material requirements of the dukhan ritual including one bag of chopped wood pieces of Acacia seyal (Talih) and another bag of chopped wood pieces of Terminalia brownie (Shaf), in addition to some household supplies and other food items of nutritional value.
The bride’s mother then prepares the dukhan pit within the house yard of the bride’s family. Almost every Sudanese house has some sort of a dukhan pit. The dukhan pit is normally dug down to a depth of 50 centimetres, and a round potter pot of equal size is buried inside this pit. Inside the pot some Shaf are burnt on pieces of charcoal to provide the smoke necessary for the dukhan sauna. The bride sits naked, covered in thick blanket (Shamla), on a roundish carpet made of palm leaves locally called “nota’a”. This nota’a has a round opening in the middle fitting the dukhan pit opening from which the scented smoke of Acacia seyal and Terminalia brownie wood come.
Before sitting over the dukhan pit, the would-be pride would rub her body with traditional mixture of fragranced oil cream, which is made of sheep fat mixed with sesame oil and some fragrant perfumes and dianthus juice. The perfumed mixture is usually prepared by an expert old woman. The girl/woman would sit on the dukhan pit for a while until she sweats profusely. Then she will rise up from the pit to have her whole body massaged with a soft sorghum flour paste. The sorghum flour paste massage helps tuning of the skin giving it a delicate touch, while the smoke of the burning embers of the fragrant acacia gives the skin a beloved glowing yellowish look.
It should also be noted that this habit of dukhan is practiced by almost every married Sudanese woman on daily or weekly basis, as appropriate, throughout lifetime. It is only abandoned in cases of divorce and husband’s absence or death. The dukhan practice may also be temporarily discontinued in case of a relative’s death; otherwise the dukhan pit is permanent companion of Sudanese married women. However, instead of the pit women now tend to use a portable roundish potter pot that is easy to move around with.
The dukhan ritual has been developed by an American cosmetician and beautician.
Expert cosmetician and beautician Zainab Abdel Gadir proceeded further to explain the benefits of the dukhan as opposed to modern cosmetics and sauna treatments. She stated that the dukhan components are essentially natural. Dukhan is also suitable for Sudan’s environment and climate conditions, and therefore it has no side effects whatever. Further, the dukhan components are available at an affordable cost. Dukhan is also a time-saving process, as it can be prepared at home at one’s own convenience, thereby saving lengthy hours of waiting at beautician salons.
It is already stated that the dukhan helps the tuning of skin giving it a glowing yellowish colour. Moreover, it helps the body to get rid of extra poisonous and fat wastes through profuse sweating. But one miraculous aspect of the dukhan is that it helps the fast healing of wounds, cures acnes, sunburns and rheumatism. It also cures influenza and other respiratory and intestinal bacterial infections. Regular exposure to the dukhan helps skin tuning and diminishes facial and hand skin aging lines.
Exposure to the dukhan nourishes the derma and hair roots and makes the person more vital and energetic, as the disposal of extra fat and poisonous waste through profuse sweating during the dukhan session makes the body healthier and stronger. The dukhan body fragrance lasts all day long. It is also proven that the dukhan is very effective in ridding the household of mosquito and flies, in addition to its lasting fragrance smell within the household.
The acacia seyal tree is an important economic source of national income. It grows within the Arabic Gum belt zone in Kordufan, Darfur, White Nile, Blue Nile and Kassala states. Amongst all acacia wood products, the Blue Nile State’s acacia wood is rated as the best quality produce ever.
In the River Nile State, some acacia trees are cut down and used as wood for fire or as animal feed. Acacia trees are also used to produce Arabic Gum which is a national cash crop.
E N D