KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - In Sudan the holy fasting month of Ramadan is celebrated with traditions the like of which one cannot see in other Muslim countries.
One of these traditions is a food offer the relatives of the bride present to their daughter’s would-be groom, in what has come to be known as moyat Ramadan (literally Ramadan water).
Moyat Ramadan is a combination of food stuffs, both cooked and raw which is carried in a special ceremony to the groom and his family.
As early as the Muslim month of Rajab (two months before Ramadan) the would-be bride’s family starts preparation for the event, buying requirements from the market. This concern with the event is usually a reciprocation of a handsome financial offer the groom has put in his fiancés hands on the engagement day. That is why the bride’s family is keen to offer something that fits.
Moyat Ramadan is a menu of dried traditional Sudanese drinks, mainly the hilu murr and al-Aabri al-Abyad, both of which are cooked from spicy fermented sorghum flour. Then we have al-Rugag which is a sort of wheat cornflakes. The hilu murr and al-Aabri al-Abyad are diluted with water and sweetened with sugar to be taken cold during the Ramadan breakfast (at sunset). The rugag is prepared with hot milk and sugar and is taken during the pre-dawn meal (sahoor in Arabic)
For the Hilu murr the family soaks a quantity of sorghum grain in water for a week’s time. When the grains start to grow, they are taken out of the water and stretched to dry. Then the sorghum is grinded into flour, fermented and spiced to give it color and flavor. Women then gather to cook it on a special oven, a process that may drag on for two or three days ( according to quantity.)
This process is then followed with the cooking of al-Abri al-Abyad which is made up of white unfermented and un-spiced sorghum dough.
Then the women cook the rugag which is primarily wheat dough sweetened with custard and sugar. The rugag is taken with milk for the pre-dawn meal.
Another important component of the Ramadan bridal gift is a quantity of legumes of sorts that can be cooked and taken for the sunset breakfast. With these the bride’s family takes a handsome quantity of hibiscus, aradaib and tabaldy fruits which are widely served during Ramadan as refreshers. Grilled onion and powdered okra are also essential components of the gift. These are cooked and served with porridge for Ramadan breakfast.
Having prepared these foods, the family then goes out shopping for pots and other utensils in which the gift can be carried. The stuff is then packed in these utensils, which are embroidered with colorful ribbons. With these foods the family carries cups, dishes, jugs and other utensils in which the drinks can be served.
The gift thus prepared is carried by the family’s females and neighbors to the groom’s home in a joyful procession.
In the past the moyat Ramadan was carried in baskets woven from palm stalks and leaves. Female family members used to carry the gift to the groom’s home on their heads. But with growing urbanization, the gift is now taken on automobiles.
Many social observers are getting uneasy about this tradition. They consider it needless and financially expensive.
Journalist Abdallah al-Haj says the tradition was confined to certain ethnic groups in the past, but with the growing social interaction it had spread widely in the Sudanese society.
Al-Haj has considered this tradition needless and just a parading of the financial might of the concerned family, calling for reconsidering it due to its high cost.
But Hajja Fatma Mohammad Khair, an elder woman, considers the tradition very useful in raising the morale of both bride and groom. It is a nice tradition that tells the groom and his family that ‘we rate you high, and can do what we can to show our respect to you and to your family, says jja Fatma.
Hajja Fatma has, however, warned against needless spending on the occasion. “Just a token gift can do,” she said.
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