Sudanese Proverbs

Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; besides the gates leading into the city, at all the entrances, she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
You, who are simple, gain prudence; you, who are foolish, gain understanding.
Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. (Proverbs 9:1-6)

Sudanese Proverbs- Translated, Transliterated and Explained

by Muna Zaki and Edmund Wyatt 

The following is a synopsis: Proverbs are succinct memorable sayings that are passed down by word of mouth from one from one generation to another. They usually provide some advice or opinion on some commonly held fact. This book is a collection of proverbs that are in everyday use in the Sudan. Many of them are specifically Sudanese and cast some light on the nature of a society that remains at heart a rural and traditional one despite the rapid urbanization of recent years. Owing to their oral nature it is hard to know exactly when and where many proverbs originated. However, it is obvious that many popular proverbs are taken from Classical Arabic while others are drawn from religious texts such as the biblical book of Proverbs. Some have a comparable proverb in English while others are more specific to Sudanese history and society. For instance, “The dervishes killed Gordon” (55) and “If people’s intention is pure, one ‘angareeb (a rope bed used in the Sudan) would be enough to carry a hundred. (245)

Many of the proverbs are written in Colloquial Sudanese Arabic (others in Modern Standard Arabic) and we hope that this will assist foreign language speakers in learning this dialect. All the proverbs have been written in transliterated script to assist the beginner. Learning proverbs in a foreign language is a great way of expressing your sense of humour or understanding about certain situations without having to make jokes or comments that might not really be appropriate.

Some of the proverbs have a sufficiently obvious meaning that any further clarification has been unnecessary. However, in most cases we have provided an explanation or story.

Review on Goodreads by Indran Fernando

“About the best $10 I’ve spent! Every page provides fascinating insights into Sudanese culture as well as the Sudanese dialect of Arabic and regional/obscure vocabulary. In addition to clear explanations of the proverbs’ meaning, each of 560 entries includes Arabic script+transliteration+translation; having all 4 side by side is solid gold for a student of the language. But you don’t need to be interested in Arabic or know any Arabic to appreciate. Some entries have multiple paragraphs explaining the backstory to a proverb as rooted in Arabic or Sudanese literature or folklore like the character Juha.

A handful of the selections towards the end reflect patriarchy and domestic violence or oppression of women. The author places them in context and clearly included for anthropological/ethnographic sake rather than moral value.

But the majority of the proverbs are whimsical, humorous, wise or philosophical, and surprisingly resonant in 21st century.”

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