Awadiyah Samak, a Successful Businesswoman

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW)—Awadiyah Samak is the nickname of Awadiyah Abdu Abdulla Adam, a successful business lady who has established possibly the most famous fish restaurant on Almauradah Avenue in Omdurman, the twin Sudanese capital. Awadiyah gives a model of a struggling woman who forced her way into a business full of obstacles but resolutely carried on until she gained fame throughout the capital, even abroad.
SUDANOW had a brief chat with Awadiyah that ran as follows:-

SUDANOW: Why have you chosen this fish business?

Awadiyah: It was not a choice, but a fate. I have 11 children with their father dead. I had no choice other than pray to God to provide halal (legitimate) food for them and, thanks to Him, God has answered my prayers. I saw the fish business in a sleeping dream and, about 20 years ago, a friend neighbor told me that I might find sustenance on the bank of the Nile where fish was sold. Being conscious of my circumstances, she asked me to accompany her. In the next morning we took a donkey-pulled cart and at first I began selling tea and pancakes in the fish-market from which I felt awe and fear during the first couple of days. Yet my kids were delighted with the job as they were in need of money. The dream came true, thank God.

Q:-When did your tea business last?
A:-Women used to prepare tea in the fish-market until11 a.m. and no woman used to stay after that but due to my need for more money, I extended my stay one hour or half an hour. Then I began to sell tasaly (melon beans) and groundnuts to stay until mid-afternoon. Afterwards I expanded my business by bringing meat meals which I cooked at home and sold them along with the tea and pancakes, becoming the first woman that sold food in the fish-market. All the people there were just like one family. Then I learned how to prepare faseekh (salted fish) . I used to hide the food I brought from home in a sack because it was prohibited by the health authorities and began selling it only after departure of the health people with whom I had several quarrels.

Q:- When did you start cooking and selling fish?
A:- One day I took a fish from a catch that was confiscated by the health officers. I cooked that fish in the pancake oil. I liked cleaning and grilling the fish which was a new idea for me and was highly demanded in the market. So, I began to grill the fish which was brought by the customers and after mastering this new business, I abandoned tea-making. I used to start roasting fish after departure of the health officers. I made the roasting fire from empty sacks, pieces of paper instead of firewood so as to reduce the cost and increase the profit.


Q:- Did the Locality health people stop harassing you?
A:- On the contrary, Wad Al-Birair (the Locality chief) came by himself and told me that I was expelled more than once. He asked me why I came back and I replied how I could leave my job. After ordered me not to resume working, I had to move to a distant place which I cleared from the bushes in three days. Three months passed with no customers, although I used to roast one or two fishes, kept to patience and chatted with customers who in the end knew my new place and began to increase and brought their fish for grilling. Then I started buying small quantities to grill and sell to the growing number of customers. The business in this place flourished and others came to imitate me and after five years the health officers reappeared to embarrass me once again and they told me that I would not respond to the heath or the public order authorities and that I should leave the place before anyone else and they confiscated my things heedless of my tears. I remain out of job for 15 days before God led me to a place in Al-Mauradah Market.

Q:- Was it this place?
A:- No, it was another place where I worked for 15 days before the Locality people came and ordered me to evacuate due to a complaint by the neighbors against the crowded customers in the street. A sympathetic neighbor came by to find me weeping due to the evacuation order and she offered me an empty shop to use and also 15 days later I was ordered to close down because the shop was not licensed and because it was crowded. I obeyed and returned to the bank of the Nile but again they prevented me and I began roaming the streets aimlessly, weeping for lacking sustenance.

Q:- What did you do then?
A:- Once while I was passing by on this street, I noticed an empty shop on the corner which was for rent. After a while the owner came but he refused to rent the shop on grounds the fish was dirty and would invite crowds of people. I said no problem, Allah Kerim (God is Al-generous). I washed for ablution, performed noon prayers and sat down holding my sibhah (worry-beads) in my fingers. After a while, the shop owner returned and was surprised to find me again near the shop, but this time he pitied me and agreed to rent me his shop. I was delighted to his agreement and I was further delighted when the merchants in the market immediately collected money for me to pay the rent. I contacted my children who gladly came and helped me take the old goods and clean the shop. On the same day I brought my equipment from the bank of the Nile to the new shop. The following day, a nephew came by and wrote (AWDIYAH FISH) on the wall and I began work immediately and three months later Al-Fatih Izz al-Dinn who took over as a new commissioner for the Locality ordered that the fish shop be closed down. The man who brought the order advised me to make an appeal and eventually I went and begged the commissioner who, with respect to my position of bringing up children, responded and allowed me a 15-day respite and on failure to find another place, I made another appeal and the commissioner gave another 15-day respite.


Q:- Did you succeed in getting another shop?
A:- Thanks to God, at last and after the long harassment of the Locality, I got this shop with the help of Mohamed Hamzah, the proprietor's brother who, after knowing my ability to build and complete the shop, got approval of the proprietor. Then I brought the building materials and finished the ground floor where I am now sitting, then the first floor and, thanks to God, my business expanded and divided the restaurant, keeping a division for families and veiled women.

Q:- What is the best kind of fish that is demanded by the customers?
A:-The tilapia (bulty) is of course highly preferred by the customers but we prepare all kinds of fish. We sell grilled fish, fish soup and faseekh (salted fish).

Q:- How do you run the place?
A:- I'm present in the place most of the time beside my sons and daughters, my son-in-law, my uncle's daughters, my sisters and their daughters, virtually the restaurant is run by all members of the family.

Q:- Do you have renowned personalities among your customers?
A:-Many officials, including Um Baddah commissioner Fidhaily, former Omdurman commissioner Tuhamy, the Health and Sports ministers, singers, football players, etc., all frequent the place, thanks to God.

Q:-You have a wide participation in philanthropic activities at the social and national levels. Can you mention some of those activities?
A:-I do this in gratefulness to God for what He has granted me but I don't like to mention what I offer. I feel it is my duty to help people because Almighty God Has helped me to find food for myself and my children, I also performed the pilgrimage and touched the Holy Kaaba.

Q:- We have noticed your presence and donation during the recent celebration of the international handicapped day?
A:- I'm a member of the handicapped council and I always take part in the handicapped day celebrations. In my childhood I had polio which left me with a little lameness.

Q:- What have you benefited from this business other than the money?
A;- The fame. Once I was chosen to travel to Qatar to represent the struggling women in Sudan. Ahmed Abdul Jabbar, who is sitting beside me right now, lived in Oslo, Norway for more than 20 years. He told me that while he was sitting in a park in Oslo, a Norwegian sat with him and began chatting and when he knew that Abdul Jabbar was from Sudan, the Norwegian shouted: "Awadiyah Samak".
I have sent my eight daughters to universities while the sons preferred to keep the business.


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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