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Sipping Tea in the Sudanese Style

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW)--The author of this book is Dr. Abdul Hamid Mohamed Ahmed who wrote 250 books, 77 of them published. It is a 114-page small-size book published and distributed by Azzah Publishing House. The author, Abdul Hamid Mohamed Ahmed, points out in the introduction that mood-adapting drinks are among the top concerns of a person as they influence his mood and behavior and enslave him. Those drinks, including tea, are somewhat addictive to the extent that they cannot be easily forsaken in spite of a fierce struggle between them and the practitioner who normally reverses his decision and returns to the practice after a brief stoppage, the author went on.
Tea, according to the author, is an important member of this group of mood-adapting drinks; it is the common culture among the numerous tribes and ethnicities all over the Sudan and is sought after whenever it is missed and the person who is used to sipping it can settle down only after finding it.
The Sudanese people enjoy tea sessions in which they have cordial chats and exchange news and views on various topics of universal and local nature and on personal matters.
The tea session, with its peculiar rites, possesses a sort of sanctity, though it takes a long time which the companions do not feel it; they are not in a hurry.
The author says that love for tea by the Sudanese is reflected not only in prose but largely extended to poetry, citing such renowned poets as Hardallu and Abu Sin of east Sudan and Mahdi Majzoub and Mustafa Tayeb al-Asma'a of north Sudan.
He included in his book several poems by those and other Sudanese poets in flirtation of tea which he said it is most loved by the Shaygiah ethnicity, saying a member of this ethnicity is usually not satisfied with one or two cups of tea, ordering nine cups if it is black and an uncountable number of cups if it is with milk.
The author also cites groups of people known as Baramkah mostly in west Sudan, either from the Bagarah and other tribes or migrants from the north who settled in the western towns.
The Baramkah sit around in the tea session and while drinking the stuff at leisure, they exchanged recitation of poetry expressing their affection for tea.
The author did not forget to mention the coffee-houses all over the country, serving tea and coffee to incessant frequenters.
He also indicated that Muslim night worshipers usually take tea so as to keep them awake.



Many Sudanese are of the belief that a cup of tea after a heavy meal helps the stomach with fast digestion and, further, enhances temper.
The author says the Shaygiyya community of the Northern State together with other tribal groupings, like the Baggara of Western Sudan, are widely famed for their love of tea. Those groups are keen to drink tea with milk or aromatic herbs. Tea is mixed with lemon, maharaib, fenugreek, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, musk and other spices, all of which are locally used to cure temporary ailments.


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Beside its refreshing properties, tea is used for the treatment of some diseases.
Heavy black tea was found to be an antidote against the spread in the body of poison from snake and scorpion bites.
Light tea mixed with lemon is known for its ability to cure colds.. Dry tea is used as an incense to ward off colds and bronchitis.
Pastoralists carry tea and its utensils with them wherever they go in search of pasture and water for their livestock.
Along with its refreshing qualities, pastoralists consider tea a sign of hospitality when guests call. These nomads also like tea because it is easy to make and because it is accepted by everybody.
Some people like tea with sugar. But its true lovers prefer it without sugar. In this, the last category is on a par with diabetics who prefer to drink tea without sugar.
When sugar is not available, some people chew some dates as they get the sip. Some people use sweets and honey, instead.
Black and green tea also has a third challenger: coffee. Here poets hold debates, each recounting the merits of his favourite drink. In such encounters each poet glorifies his favourite drink, explains its benefits and belittles the position of the other two drinks.
Says Poet al-Tilaib:
Tea, green or black can be good or bad.
Some tea is white, pure and fragrant.
The first is favoured by some,
the second best suits this land.
It removes laze and fatigue and drives away the gloom.
It prevents much sleep, uprights digestion after a heavy meal.
Sheikh Ahmad Bin Amin says:
Tea prevents quick ejaculation, digests heavy food at once, improves skin colour, stops belching, cures the abdomen, empowers the brain and removes fatigue.
Sometimes drinking tea can become blameworthy, like during working times. Here the Sufi (mystic) poet Wadnefeesa says in praise of dutiful Moslems:
They don’t drink tea in the forenoon /
That could have been a shame/
See how their faces look/
See how praiseworthy they are.
The group’s tea maker must have certain traits without which he is disqualified for the job. Says Poet al-Tilaib :
The first condition tactful he should be/
Light hearted with tender, honest, soul/
The water he uses must be clear and dirt free/
He should control his fire, remove all dirt that can be/
His sparks free from smoke should be.
The author says before the introduction of tab water, people used to filter water through clay jars. Clean pots were put under water-filled clay jars in which to collect filtered water seeping down from the bottom of those jars. Neighbours can readily supply one with such water if not available at his/her own home.

Poet al-Sheikh Sulaiman al-Hoot urges alcoholics to:
Quit liquor .It can make you bedridden/
In Islam all spirits are forbidden
Come for a cup of tea/
It’s halal and blame free/
Get addicted to it! It cures the soul and from sickness it makes it free/
It invigorates thee and by tasting it generous you will be /
Gloom away it secretly takes/
Sober the eye it makes and from sleep up the eye wakes/
The door for the two desires (food and females) open it makes/
Soft and red like a rose the face shape takes/
Tea is the biggest of blessings for the one who it drinks/
It’s an elixir..no coffee, no liquor can get you what it brings!

Poet Mustafa Taybalasma once described a girl who handed someone a cup of tea and asked him whether he wanted more sugar:
The sweetness of your palms had swept him and tender the fresh cups became/
Pour as much as you wish, for from your hands magic images came.
The author then elaborates on the phenomenon of the Baramkas, known for their generosity during tea sittings.
The Baramkas of Sudan are an emulation of a philanthropist group of gentlemen during the Abbasi dynasty of the Middle Ages who were known for their lavish spending on their guests.
The Baramkas of Sudan are found in Kordufan and Darfur districts of Western Sudan .They are pastoralists and farmers who hail from several tribes in those districts and from elsewhere in Sudan.
They are well organized and maintain strong bonds among themselves, despite the different locations.
The author accounted for the Baramkas ways of living and the norms they keep in tea –making and tea drinking.
Most noteworthy about the Baramka organizations is the hierarchy around which they build their groupings.
A single Baramka circle is made up of the Director, the Judge, the Supervisor, the Mayor, the Sheikh, and the Guard. Of late they added new jobs: the Officer, the Doctor and the Inspector.
For each title there is a specific job description. The Director gives the orders and undertakes general supervision. The Judge considers violations . The Officer prepares the case for the judge. The Doctor oversees the tea utensils and how hygienic they are .The Guard watches the members and reports irregularities.
Wrong doing includes coming to the tea sitting without a turban or a cap. Putting cups on the ground is also an offence. To hold the tea cup from the bottom or the middle is also wrong. The cup should be held from the upper edge. Tea should be sipped ..one sip and, then, the next.
People who shun the Baramkas are called ‘’the Kamkallis’’. They are condemned in verse.

Tea and its groupings was behind the fame of many poets. In their verses the poets display the religious and general knowledge they acquire as they travel around and also from the radio.

The author rules out the claim that tea groupings were contradictory to serious conduct. As a matter of fact, and despite the long process of tea parties, group members acquire lots of good things. They know about each other, learn about agriculture, cattle raising, trade and, over and above, get some recreation.
In conclusion the author maintains that ’’people had loved tea, had written nice poetry and prose about it and had allowed it to take centre stage in the literature of those communities.’’

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MAS/ YA/ AS

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...

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