The Wolf and the Stork

This story is basically another version of Aesop’s fable, The Wolf and the Crane, with a Sudanese setting!

One day a wolf met a stork that was foraging for food in the shallows of a river. Being by nature a gregarious fellow, he invited the bird to dine in his lair. So, the next day she flew up to his cave in a nearby hillside. To the stork’s surprise, the wolf served her some soup on a flat plate. Whenever the stork lowered her beak onto the plate, she found that she was unable to take even one sip of the soup. Meanwhile the wolf noisily slurped up all the soup from his own flat plate. When the plate had been licked clean, he turned to the stork and asked, ‘Did you have your fill?’

The stork felt embarrassed and merely replied, ‘al- Hamdu le-llaah’ (Thanks God)

Several days later, the stork invited the wolf to come and dine at her house amongst the trees along the river bank. When he arrived, she offered him soup in a gulla (a small earthen ware jar with a narrow neck). The wolf tried to put his mouth inside the gulla but he couldn’t because the jar’s neck was too narrow. Meanwhile the stork put her beak and long neck inside her jar and quickly drank down all her soup in great satisfying gulps. When she had finished she looked at the wolf and asked, ‘Did you have your fill?’

‘al- Hamdu le-llaah,’ replied the wolf looking down at the gulla beside him that was still full.

A short while later the wolf left the stork’s house feeling very upset. As he climbed the hillside towards his home, he met his old friend the fox. Seeing the look of consternation on the wolf’s face, the fox asked what the matter was.

After being told the full story, the fox laughed loudly and declared, ‘You are the one who started with the wrong and the one who started is the more wrong.’



The Sudanese Souq


A typical Sudanese grocer’s shop (copyright: Muna Zaki).

The Sudanese Souq

Sudanese markets are lively places that add much needed colour and vitality to those provincial towns that languish under a general feeling of atrophy and the loss of more optimistic, youthful times. Wandering along lines of stalls and through bustling, tarpaulin-covered alleyways, any sense of loneliness on the part of a homesick visitor will soon vanish. Greetings are exchanged and questions patiently answered. Much good-humoured bargaining then takes place without any undue pressure being placed upon the potential buyer.

Apart from a small tourist section of Souq Omdurman, markets in the Sudan tend to be based upon the needs of the inhabitants. Alongside the greengrocers and butchers, there are other stores selling the basic ingredients used in Sudanese recipes: cones of dried dates; piles of red karkadee (hibiscus) leaves; white mounds of gongolees, the fruit of the baobab tree. Also tubs of sundried tomatoes, cumin, peanuts, fuul beans and powdered okra; heaps of watermelon seeds; the hard fruit of the doum palm; sweet nabag, the fruit of the jujube tree and even chunks of natron dug from the desert.

Walk on further and there will be a row of hardware shops selling all manner of aluminium pots and pans as well as the now ubiquitous plastic goods from China. In another corner will be stalls selling fabric alongside tailors’ sewing machines for making garments.

More interesting perhaps are the traditional handicrafts:  wooden mafraka for stirring stews such as mulaaH; canoon charcoal burners made from old tins, together with palm-leaved habbaaba for fanning the embers; metal shragrag used for boiling water; teeth cleaning masaawiik made from the branches of the arak tree, and all manner of leather goods such as the traditional shoes known as markuub.


Sudanese shoemakers making the traditional markuub shoe (copyright: Muna Zaki)

The Mouse and the Beetle – a Sudanese Proverb with a Folktale

الخنفُسانة شافت ولدها في الحيط قالت دا لولي ملضوم في خيط

al khunfusaana shaafat walada fi l-HeeT gaalat da luuli malDuum fi kheeT.

The dung beetle saw its son on the wall and said these are pearls put together on a string.

Though the dung beetle is ugly, to his mother he is as lovely and beautiful as pearls beads strung together on a thread. This proverb implies that parental love can be blind. There is a short folktale called The Mouse and the Beetle relating to this proverb.

It once happened that a mouse married a beetle. One day when the beetle went down to the river to wash her shamla (a rag of wool or goat hair used by Sudanese women to cover their bodies when having a smoke bath), a strong habuub suddenly blew and swept away the shamla, together with the beetle who was clinging on to it tightly. The gust of wind threw the beetle on an island in the river, leaving her feeling shocked and bewildered. By coincidence, a boy from the house where the mouse and the beetle had their hole was passing near the shore. When the beetle saw him, she called out in her loudest voice: Continue reading

Easter: the message of unconditional love



Easter: the message of unconditional love and forgiveness.

In a world full of hatred and grudge, where humans strive to bring about the destruction of humanity, we find in Jesus a refuge and hope of everlasting life. He sacrificed himself and demonstrated the greatest love of all.

Romans 5 (6-8) For at the very time when we were still powerless, then Christ died for the wicked. Even for a just man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one might actually brave death; but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s own proof of his love towards us.

Despite his great suffering on the cross, he did not seek revenge, and instead asked God to forgive those who had inflicted harm on him.

1 Peter chapter 2, verses 23-25: He committed no sin, he was convicted of no falsehood; when he was abused he did not retort with abuse, when he suffered he uttered no threats, but committed his cause to the One who judges justly. In his own person he carried our sins on the tree, so that we might cease to live for sin and begin to live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Matthew Henry: Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His suffering thy salvation.




A Sudanese Proverb With A Tale

شِن قطعك يا راس

shin gaTa’ik ya raas.

Oh head, what cut you?

When words are many, sin is not absent, and he who holds his tongue is sometimes wise. One has to be wise in what one says and how you say it. Sometimes it is better to keep silent. This saying has a story behind it:


There was an Arab who was travelling on his donkey in the desert. On his way, he found a skeleton. Motivated by his curiosity, he got off his donkey to investigate it. He found that the head had become separated from its body. 

“Glorification is to God!” He murmured to himself in surprise. As he went closer to the skull lying close to the skeleton he asked: “Who cut you head?”

The skull jumped from its place and answered: “It is my tongue that cut me!”

The Arab was filled with horror. So he repeated the same question many times and the skull gave him the same answer every time.

Now as this Arab was not a sober or self-possessed person, he rushed back to his village straight to the mayor’s house. There he found the mayor with all the village notables around him, and without pausing for breath he told them the whole story of the beheaded skeleton. They started to giggle sarcastically at what he said and the Malik rebuked him. Instead of leaving the mayor’s council meeting, he was persistent and insisted on the mayor and the others  follow him back to the skeleton’s place in the desert.

Because of the Arab’s boldness in asking, the mayor and his council agreed to follow. The mayor threatened and said: “By divorce. If I find out what you have said is not true, I will behead you like the skeleton you have seen.”

When they reached the place, the Arab asked the skull: “Oh head, what cut you?”

But to his bad luck the skull did not move or answer. He repeated the question many times, but still he got no answer. The mayor’s blood boiled in his veins and he felt that his reputation had been ruined for following such a mentally deranged man. He beheaded the Arab and went back with his men to the village… but before they moved further, the skull jumped of its place towards the head of the Arab which was still bleeding and said to it: “Didn’t I tell you that my tongue cut me?!”

Two villages by moonlight

While collecting Sudanese folktales it has always struck me how many references there are to the jinn and evil spirits. This traveller’s tale by my husband describes a trek he made through the Jabal Marra mountains shortly before the eruption of the Darfur conflict in 2003. He believes that the strange episode in this story was entirely in his imagination, but I’m not so sure…

“When some of the merchants in the market at Nyala heard that I was going to hike through the mountains alone they expressed concern. “There are lions, leopards and goodness knows what else!” they warned in dark tones. And as it happened, there was a reason later on to remember their warning.”

“Several days into my trek, I reached the floor of the Deriba crater under the ridge of the Jebel Marra mountain. Here horses grazed on the pasture while a troop of baboons entertained me with their quick agility on the steep mountainsides. In the middle of the crater was a salt lake that according to legend would suck into its depths any bird that flew above it. Inwardly I had scoffed at the tale recounted in a geographical article written by British officers who were the first to climb Jebel Marra after the 1916 invasion. However, as I watched the tranquil scene, I noticed that strangely enough there were no birds amongst the trees on the crater’s floor, nor soaring above the rocky mountainsides.

Moving down the mountain, I came to a series of hot sulphur springs next to which I relaxed for some time until the golden rays of late afternoon sunshine warned me that dusk was approaching. I had planned to spend the night at the village of Quaila but according to my map, which was entirely in Russian, it was still some distance away.” “Surprisingly, I was not perturbed at the thought of being benighted on an African mountain despite the chill of the evening air. Surely this is why I had come to Africa in the first place – for an adventure! With the last rays of sunlight, I saw a brown hare scurrying away while from further off came the haunting cry of a jackal. I watched a line of feral donkeys filing their way down into a ravine, their eyes glowing fluorescently in the gathering gloom. Following them, I came to a salt encrusted marsh that I squelched my way across before scrambling up the valley’s side and onto a plateau.”

“Here I saw in the moonlight a row of African houses surrounded by thorn hedges. There was no light coming from any of them so I decided to walk along the settlement’s perimeter in the hope that someone would come out and greet me. To my astonishment, the place was deserted without even the bark or snarl from one of the ferocious dogs that usually guard the Fur homesteads. As I walked back, I began to feel more and more uneasy. Turning round at last I saw that the houses had disappeared! All that now stood in their place were some thorny shrubs…”

“Fortunately, I did find the path down to Quaila, and a couple of hours later found myself standing in the middle of the deserted market place. From the middle of the village I could hear the merriment of a wedding celebration. If there was ever an occasion to gate crash a party, I felt that this was it, especially after my “hallucinations” earlier that evening. Within minutes, I had been seated around a blazing fire and a bowl of warm broth placed in my hands. Afterwards I rolled out my sleeping bag and stared at the stars that looked like jewels in the black night’s sky. Around the flickering fire a sufi chant had begun “la ilaah illa allaah!, la ilaah illa allaah!” (There is no God but God!). I hope that they don’t keep that going all night I thought to myself but within minutes I was lost to the world in the luxurious sleep of the exhausted. My warm reception that night was typical. The rural people of the Sudan justly deserve their reputation for great hospitality. There were numerous times when they offered me, a foreigner and chance-met traveller, a meal or bed for the night.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget those two very different villages that I encountered one moonlit night in the Jabal Marra mountains.”

(a traveller’s tale by Edmund Wyatt)