Sufi Dancing in Omdurman

Phil was kind enough to reserve a minibus so a group of us could go experience the weekly Sufi dancing ritual on the late afternoon and early evening of March 23 in Omdurman, just across the Nile from Khartoum. We stopped by the teachers’ apartments and picked up Brad, Rene, Colin, and Colin’s mother who had just arrived that morning from the States. Across the street from the teachers’ apartments is a building under construction where some poor people have staked out a home of their own until the construction is complete.

Temporary Housing, Khartoum, Sudan Goat and Temporary Housing, Khartoum, Sudan

We met the minibus at the Khartoum American School.

Khartoum American School

The minibus brought our group to Omdurman where we spotted the two buildings enclosing tombs of famous Sufi teachers. A Muslim cemetery surrounded the two buildings.

Tombs at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Tombs at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

I went inside the tombs, after removing my shoes, to check them out. The caskets looked large and specially made clothes covered the caskets. People inside touched the tomb in prayer and/or mumbled prayers while sitting or walking around the tomb.

Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Water Jugs Outside Tombs at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Phil Outside Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Guy Selling Whips at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Before the Sufi dancing got going, we experienced many preliminaries. A guy preached about the name of Mohammed, a man was selling whips, and two others played drums along with lovely chanting. Sometimes, people would approach the drummers and dance a bit with them. Some guys sat on top of the tomb structures. Many of the Sufi dancers dress in green and red robes. A procession approached with green and red flags at one point entering the tomb complex, then departing. Gradually, a large circle of participants forms around a central pole where they hang green and red flags.

Drummers at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Guys Sitting on Tomb Structures at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Processing Approaching Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Women at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Procession Approaching Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Ritual Drumming Starts at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Phil and Rene at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Procession Approaching Tomb at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Sufi at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Ritual Drumming at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Line Dancing at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Participants in Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

As the drumming and chanting of Islamic prayers gets more intense, the inner circle of mostly men start bobbing and bowing. Newcomers greet each other with handshakes or embraces, which become blessings. One elder Sufi, adorned in beads, embraces me, perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit from afar. Some enter the circle to shuffle forward and back in a counterclockwise direction. Some carry traditional sticks, whips, or other fetishes, which are used only symbolically in the dancing. The combination of chanting, drumming, and bowing becomes meditative, even engendering trance states. Occasional passionate dancers start twirling in the dervish fashion.

Colorfully Attired Sufi Dancer, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan

Sufis Embracing at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Drummers and Chanters at Sufi Dancing Site, Omdurman, Sudan Man Entering Blissful Trance While Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

Man Entering Blissful Trance While Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Man Entering Blissful Trance While Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan Sufis Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan After Sufi Dancing, Omdurman, Sudan

We got very thirsty went to buy juice and soft drinks after the Sufi dancing.

Drink Stand, Omdurman, Sudan

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