Research Proposal: Sudanese Culture

Background Information

Have you ever wondered why the “norm” to a group of people is forbidden to another? Curiosity creates an interest of understanding the similarities and differences between a group of people that have various beliefs and practices.  The world was been a melting pot since its inception. In this diverse universe is a mix of different races, genders, ages, colors, religions, traditions, cultures, and perspectives. Every human being has one of these characteristics previously mentioned in addition to, their own unique, distinctive personality. If one digs deeper, the various characteristics can be derived from a person’s cultural background and how they were raised traditionally. Qin et al., (2014) argues that holding to identity and culture helps in avoiding distractions, maintaining focus and making good choices. This assertion seems to hold water.

Culture influences a group of peoples’ views, values, loyalties, worries, and fears.  According to Cambridge University’s dictionary, culture is the way of life of a particular people, especially as shown in their ordinary behavior and habits, their attitudes toward each other, and their moral and religious beliefs. Moreover, it can also be defined as the arts of describing, showing, or performing that represent the traditions or the way of life of a particular people or group; literature, art, music, dance, theater, etc. (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.). Throughout this research paper, we will discuss a non-industrialized country and explore the culture; specifically the language, food, tribe, clothing, tradition, music, sports, religion, education, health, economy, and politics.

Geography and location

Sudan is a state located at the Northeast and the 54th and newest country in the continent of Africa. Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence (BBC News). However, North Sudan normally referred to as Sudan will be primarily discussed throughout the paper. The river Nile divides the country into Eastern and Western halves. Sudan predominant religion is Islam. According to Samuel, Catherine & Paddy (2017), religion in Sudan existed even before the centuries before the birth of Christ.  “Bilad al Sudan” was the name given by medieval Muslims to the belt of African territory south of the Sahara Desert and extending from the Atlantic to the Ethiopian plateau. In its more modern restricted sense, however, ‘the Sudan’ means the Republic of the Sudan, formerly the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. Recently, the coming out of Sudan as a major oil producer and exporter has led to a higher profiling in global economic affairs, notably after China sought to partner with her (Holt, & Daly, 2000).

Sudan covers nearly 1 million square kilometers, an area seven times the size of California and five times the size of Texas, making it the largest single country in Africa. Apart from a narrow plain along the Red Sea, the Sudan is entirely land-locked, sharing boundaries with Egypt and Libya to the north, Ethiopia and Eritrea to the east, South Sudan and Central Africa to the south and southwest, and the Republic of Chad to the west. The Sudan lies wholly within the tropics, and with the exception of the ‘Sudd’ region in the south and some hilly districts towards its western and eastern extremities, constitutes one vast plain.

The extreme north is Saharan in its heat and aridity, but below this, a central belt (from about latitudes 18 degrees to about 12 degrees north) contains some of the richest agricultural and grazing land in the country, including the ‘Gezira’ island between the White and the Blue Niles, traditionally the granary of the Sudan. To the south of this belt, the rich grasslands are replaced by thickly forested and intensely humid lands and woods. This climatic diversity enriches the southern region with a variegated flora and fauna. All in all, roughly 20 percent of the land is arable, accounting for 100 million acres, of which only one-fifth is under active cultivation and that mainly in the northern region (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018).

The capital of North Sudan is Khartoum which is the largest city in the country. The population is approximately 39.58 million. In Sudan there are 600 different ethnic groups who speak more than 400 languages and dialects (Kaleidescope, 2012).  The official language spoken in the country is Arabic but English is also widely spoken. Moreover, other languages are spoken in the villages such as Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanese languages, English. Abdelhay et al., (2016) argues that the dominant regime of language in Sudan is a “proxy for doing politics by culture”.  The climate is tropical but typically hot throughout the year. In the desert it can reach very high, hot weather. Summer, typically June to September, is when Sudan experiences its raining season. Overall, it’s hot, dusty, and windy. Sandstorms (known as ‘haboob’) blow through the country and leave behind a fine reddish-yellow dust (Our Africa-Sudan).


The power of culture is so deep that it requires passion and true dedication to understand a society that views the world differently. Learning about another culture can open one’s mind, heart, show empathy, and understand the value of life. The most interesting component in learning about a person’s culture is that it defines who they are and what they represent. The more we learn about different cultures, the more accepting of diversity, the more we can create global awareness and most importantly, the better we become as a human being.

Religious practices & beliefs

According to Mareng (2009), Sudan is partly divided into three religious camps namely, Christians, Muslims and Non-Religious Groups. These religions are identified with regions; with Christianity identifying with the south while Islam with the north. The Sudanese people belief that the doctrines of Islam command for a direct relationship between God and people, with no intercessors. Women in Sudan observe the rule that all females should not expose any other part of their body to their male counterpart’s except for the feet, hands and face. The exceptions to this rule are brother, father, husband and other members of the extended family like uncles.

Economic activities

Agriculture is very important is Sudan. Since the country is so dry to grow natural produce, the farmers focus on raising animals such as sheep’s, goats, and cattle’s. The Sudanese also rely heavily on the Nile River for agriculture. They get water from the Nile River to grow crops such as sorghum, millet and cereal grains. If the weather is not extremely hot, fresh fruits can be grown all along the river. The Nile is an important source of fish, like Nile perch. Fishing also takes place along the Red Sea coast. Most of the catch from Sudanese fishermen is eaten locally. 

Furthermore, in the south of Khartoum (the capital) in the El Gezira region, there is a fertile land lying between the Blue and White Niles that produces crops such as peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar and cotton. Cotton is the second highest earning crop. Molasses and sugar cane are also grown. Away from the Nile River are the dry regions in which crops such as dates and ‘gum Arabic’ are taken from acacia trees. Sudan is the world’s largest producer of the “gum Arabic.”The ‘Arabic’ comes from a local word meaning ‘good’ or ‘transparent’. The ingredients include a natural resin that comes from the acacia trees that grow across the central part of the country. In addition, it’s used in foods such as sweets and fizzy drinks.  The acacia tree is found in dry regions of the country such as Darfur and Kordofan. An estimated five million people (tappers and their families) depend on the money they earn each year from the gum (Our Africa-Sudan).

Also, Sudan serves a vital role as a major transit point for trade and commerce through the Nile River which links the country with other 9-other namely; Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The other countries benefit from the infinite economic potential in Sudan including the rich and diverse resources like oil. The exploitation of such resources and realization of this growth potential has increased due to the end of political instability and uncertainty in Sudan.

The arts

Music lyrics are also a thing of the Sudanese people. Their music is largely associated with the coinage of new words, typically made up on-spot like during special occasions like weddings. The Oud (lute) and the Rababas (a replica of the usual violin, with a body covered with hide) are some of the most common Sudanese traditional musical instruments. Mohammed Wardi is one of the most celebrated Nubian songwriter, singer and an iconic artist (BBC, 2012). He was a Muslim.

Sudan has also been known to produce great sportsmen and women. Professional sports were introduced in Sudan early in the colonial rule. They included wrestling, swimming and horsemanship. To help develop this activity, different sporting clubs were organized. Currently, Sudan boasts advanced sporting facilities that hosts diverse activities. Football remains the most popular sport in the country and enjoys high support from the media and enthusiasts. The Sudanese national football has rich history from the 40’s, 50’s through to the 70’s and is team is one of the oldest in the African Continent. With Mustafa Azhari as their best player, the team won the African cup of nations in 1970. Other recognized football teams in Al-Merreikh Sudan, Al Hilal Omdurman Sudan, Al Khartoum SC Sudan, Al Ahly Shendi Sudan and Hilal Al-Obayed.

The art of the tribes still remains the most steady and oldest Sudanese contemporary and modern art. This is attributed to the slow responsiveness to change by the Sudanese tribal life. A lot of conservatism, diversity and reservation can be recognized in the art of the tribes. The entire tradition, past and present, forms the platform on which the contemporary Sudanese art is deeply grafted. 

Food and Diet

Moreover, the food in North Sudan is simple yet diverse geographically and culturally.  It depends on peoples’ heritage and background. According to the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C, wheat flour is the staple food for the people of the north who use it in making their main dish (Gourrassa). It is made of wheat and baked in a circular shape, its thickness and size change according the needs. Central Sudan is perhaps the region that is the most diversified and colorful in its cuisine and dietary habits. This is due to its being a melting pot for the different Sudanese cultures and peoples, and to its exposure to external influences, like the effect of the British domination during the Condominium period (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018).

The Syrian traders and Arab settlers had major influences on the Sudanese dietary habits.  They introduced red pepper, garlic and pepper, in addition meatballs, pastries, vegetables and fruits that were unknown in Sudan (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, n.d.).  Historically, the Sudanese ate simple, unsophisticated foods. Gradually, they begin to improvise and discover more tasteful and sophisticated dishes, depending on the types of new animal and agricultural discoveries. After the main dish, they eat desert, which is very different from other traditional African nations.

Food in Daily Life

A compulsory food item in Sudan is bread, called Kissra. Kissra, made from corn and consumed with stew. In the stew there is dried meat, dried onions, spices and peanut butter. Other ingredients can be added such as milk and yogurt. Ni’aimiya and dried okra is used in preparing other stews like Waika, Bussaara and Sabaroag. Miris is a stew that is made from sheep’s fat, onions and dried okra. Other vegetables such as potatoes and eggplants are used in preparing stews meat, onions and spices.  Some stews may come with porridge which is called Asseeda. Some popular appetizers in Sudan are Elmaraara and Umfitit. These appetizers are made from sheep parts such as the lungs, liver and stomach along with, onions, peanut butter and salt, which are ate raw (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018).

Drinks and beverages

Furthermore, other types of porridges are popular in Sudan, in which the main ingredient is wheat. Many people add milk, sugar and margarine for a better taste. Soups are an important component of the Sudanese food, the most popular are Kawari’, which includes cattle or sheep meat, vegetables, and spices. Lastly, there is Elmussalammiya, which is made with liver, flour, dates and spices (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018). With the fruits that are grown in Sudan, several beverages are made such as Tabaldi, Aradaib, Karkadai and Guddaim. In Ramadan (The Muslims’ fasting month), one of their favorite drinks is the Hilumur which is made from corn flour and spices (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018).Sudanese coffee is extremely strong. It is served from a special tin ‘jug’ with a long spout, known as a jebena. The coffee is sweet and often spiced with ginger or cinnamon, and is drunk from tiny cups or glasses. Fruit teas and herbal teas such as kakaday (hibiscus tea) are also popular (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan, 2018). 

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions

During the Great Feast Sacrifice Feast of the Eid al-Adha, the tradition requires that sheep’s be slaughtered and the meat distributed to the less destitute in the society. During the breaking of the Ramadan Fast, or else know as the al-Fitr, familos get together to celebrate and also the less destitute are also invited. The Easter holidays, Christmas and the birthday of Prophet Muhammad are primarily children’s events. They are marked with special desserts: sticky sweets and pink sugar dolls made from sesame seeds and nuts.

Social alignment

Sheer devotion on traditional values is eminent in majority of the Sudanese families in spite of the influence from the western culture. Whether in urban or rural setting, the man’s world has been largely public as woman is to domestic/home. From formal socializing to everyday meals such as marriage banquets, women and men are largely segregated. So far, it is not easy to ascertain the effects of migration, famine and war has impacted families in Sudan. Most of the rural Sudanese families have in the recent years shifted to cities, where ethnic and family groups mix at work and school. The cities of Omdurman and Khartoum are largely occupied by the upper-class families, those who are closely connected to respected professions, businesses and the Government.

Classes and Castes

Education in Sudan is highly valued. A lot of respect is accorded to the highly learned persons in the society, regardless of their ethnicity. Most Sudanese have access to economic and education opportunities than in most countries in Africa. According to (Okegbile, 2014), the literacy level in male is higher than in female; 40% and 16% respectfully. However, this level is outstanding for a nation that has been facing turmoil’s for the last two decades. Particularly, they are better-off than their counterparts in the south. Social status and class in Sudan is customarily determined by birth.


In Sudan, there were three major groups (the Fur, Humr Baqqārah and the Otoro. There appeared to be a major distinction in political classes among the groups. For instance, among the Fur, the highest political office was occupied by the Sultan, supported by councilors appointed by the Sultan. An ordinary Fur could not marry with an ironworker (mainly Otoro) as ironworkers consisted of a despised class of people. The Arab descent formed the political class among the Humr Baqqārah (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). Non-Arabs occupied positions of less power hence they were politically discriminated against. Customarily, the Otoro held no positions in political offices.

Family and relationships

Cousins and uncles going back several generations form extended families in Sudan. These ties in families play an important role in one’s life, marriage opportunities and work. Customarily, the focal point for the people in Sudan has been a nomadic communities or local village. These comparatively small groups comprise extended families founded on ancestral lineages and male relatives. The ultimate goal of every member of a lineage is to protect the interest of the community while safeguard the communal territory and establishing ties with other communities through intermarriages. Generally, family leaders are held in high esteem in the community.

Greetings & showing respect

The Sudanese culture holds a lot of respect to family relationships. The immediate family members include god-parents, parents, grandparents, in-laws, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, children, wives and husbands. Culturally, the father is the official leaders and family head. He makes all important family decisions like financial decisions and is allowed to consult other male relatives like his brother-in-laws and blood brothers. On the contrary, women are tasked with raising children and home maintenance. According to Charles et al., (2001), there are some generalized distinction between Islamic North and the Africans of the South. For example, men are only allowed to shake hands with other men, and only with family female members.

Gestures & Customs

In Sudan, respect is part and parcel of every person’s everyday life. Community elders and leaders are treated with high respect and are well thought-out to be a source of wisdom and cultural knowledge. In respect, all people of age are referred to as Grandma, Grandpa or even uncle, the actual relationship with that person notwithstanding. Teachers are also highly revered and as a custom they have the right to instill disciple to children, anyplace, anywhere. More so, religious teachers hold high places in the communities and tey normally act as personal consultants. According to Kaleidoscope (2012), the word “Sheikh” has to precede their name or they can be called “Mawalana” instead. On the other hand, the person who leads prayers in the mosque is referred to as the “Imam’s.  It is considered an act of high disrespect to refer to religious leaders by their names only.

Customarily, sexual matters are discussed in seclusion. However, the women can openly discuss their reproductive health matters with caregivers. Nevertheless, they prefer female caregivers to male caregivers. Even though sex before marriage is completely unacceptable, most girls are married off at an early stage. Curbing the issue of sex before marriage has greatly helped in preventing cases of HIV/AIDS and STDs.


Abdelhay, A., Eljak, N., Mugaddam, A., & Makoni, s. (2016). The cultural politics of language

in Sudan: against the racialising logic of language rights. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(4), 346-359. DOI:

This paper looks at the individual sociolinguistic repertoires in Sudan as established orders of standardization. It should be noted that the perceptibility of language in official and popular discourse in the country is always connected with the wider political and cultural alignments of different ethnic groups. The authors implicitly discuss how the philosophical dominance of language functions in Sudan through analyzing its contextual negotiations and appropriations.

BBC (2012). Sudan mourns singer Mohammed Wardi. Retrieved 19 March, 2018, from

Charles, M. P., & Lance, R. (2001). Culture and the End of Life: East African Cultures: Part

II, Sudanese. Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing, 3 (3), 110-112,120.

This article looks at the complexity of the Sudanese culture in relation to those of other African countries. It presents the religious war between the Northern Islamic fundamentalists against the other African ethnic groups. It presents that, in understanding the underlying factors that influence the regional cultural stability in Sudan, one must acknowledge the role religion play in these dynamics.

Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Meaning of “culture” in the English Dictionary. Retrieved 19

March, 2018, from

Encyclopedia Britannica (n.d.). Sudan. Retrieved 19 March, 2018, from

Holt, P. M., & Daly, M. W (2000). History of Sudan: From the Coming of Islam to the

Present Day. New York: Longman Publishers

This book explains the history of Sudan, covering even the recent crisis in Darfur. It looks at Sudan from the perspective of the decade-long war at the South as well as an emerging oil exporter, which would propel Sudan in global economic matters. Throughout the concerns raised, one factor remains a top concern is the return of political stability and power balance in the Sudan by any means possible, this is the only feasible solution to all the problems highlighted.

Kaleidoscope (2012).Sudanese. Retrieved 19 March, 2018, from

Mareng, C. D. ( 2009). The Sudan’s dimensions: A country divided by ethnicity and religion.

African Journal of Political Science and International Relations 3 (12), 532-539.

This article discusses the implications of religion and ethnic group contribution to the two decade civil war in Sudan. The article notes that Sudan plays a vital role in the African economic stability being one of the major oil exporters in the continent. However, some leaders utilize ethnic and religious divisions for their own gain and for political mileage. Most of the Africa’s oil traces its origin from the Sudan making this region a major player and contributor to the African economy. Peace and prosperity in this region means a constant flow of oil, a valuable resource to the African countries.

The embassy of the republic of Sudan, Washington DC (n.d.). About Sudan: The Physical Setting. Retrieved 19 March, 2018, from

Helps Me Make Good Decisions”. Journal of Adolescent Research, 30 (2), 213-243Qin, D. B., Saltarelli, A., Rana. B. L., Lee, J. A., & Johnson, D. J., (2014). “My Culture

The issues of adaptation and acculturation are thoroughly discussed in this article. The findings presented indicate that Sudanese immigrants portrayed strong cultural roots. Apparently, the article recognizes that any cultural manipulation of the self would be viewed as undemocratic and discriminative and this will be in contradiction to the United States conviction for championing democracy without discrimination.

Okegbile, E. O. (2014). South Sudanese refugee women’s healthcare access and use (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Okegbile in her doctoral dissertation discusses the impacts of famine and prolonged civil-war that has adversely affected millions of children and women over the last two decades in the African Nation of Sudan. The main focus of the paper is to identify the perception of Sudanese women on their use of, and access to, and utilization of available healthcare as provided for, and the cultural influences on access after they have resettled in the United States. 

Samuel, J.B.M., Catherine, J., & Paddy, M. (2017). The religious cycle in Sudan history: Case study on the Sudanese religious conflicts up to 1983. African Journal of History and Culture, 9(6), 48-55. DOI: 

The authors in this article sought to discuss the Sudanese history with an emphasis on the role of religion since the days before Christ to the present day.  Discussed herein is; (1) Egyptian religions and their impacts on Sudan. (2) The social transformation brought about by Judaism. (3) The emergence of Christianity and its functions in separating the Nubian community into three distinct kingdoms between orthodox and catholic denominations. (4) The emergence of Islam and its influence which resulted to the 2011 separation of Southern Sudan.