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Published: December 9th 2010
Day two in Abri, and we'd arranged to meet up with Magzoob, who we'd met the night before. We later worked out, that through the glories of pigeon English, and miscommunication, he got the impression that back in the UK I'm an author not a book designer. 2+2 then equalled 5, and he thought I was writing a travel guide to Sudan. At this point, he started trying his hardest to entertain and impress us, and quickly nominated himself as out guide around town, eager to get his name in my soon to be published book. By the time we'd figured this out, it was too late, and we just had to go along with it...
At 9.30am Magzoob arrived in a 1978 Toyota Corolla, which was incredibly battered and bruised, but still had enough chrome stallions to shimmer in the sunlight, and was clearly his pride and joy. We jumped in, and headed off to Sai Island, a bumpy 10km drive down the Nile. The guide book said the island had a the remains of a medievil fort, and a ruined church, but that neither were anything special, but Magzoob was keen to take us, so we went along
with it. The book was right. All that remained of the church was four wonky pillars, and a fierce lady on the path on the way to the fort wouldn't let us pass without paying 8USD. It didn't seem worth it, and neither did the 40 minute trip there (the Corolla wasn't as fast as it was rusty). Still, I was in Sudan, and that was enough to keep me happy.
Sensing his tour wasn't going to plan, Magzoob then offered to take us a good spot in the Nile where we could go swimming. He said all the tourists go swimming there, and assured us there were no crocodiles this far north in the winter. On such a hot day we couldn't turn the offer down, and as Magzoob was adament there were no crocodiles here, we hired a river ferry (half and oil drum with an engine welded on) to take us across the Nile to a beach on the other side. In fairness, we were 10km away the following day when we saw a 3m crocodile resting on a beach, before sliding into the river, and disappearing beneath the surface in a ripple. They can't swim
that far can they?
Earlier in the day Magzoob had invited us to a friend's wedding which was happening the following day. At first, all three of us were slightly dubious, not wanting to appear unannouced to a wedding where we didn't know the bride or groom, and unsure how awkward it would be. However, after making it out of the water alive, and heading back to Abri, we met the father of the groom, and were suddenly invited to the pre-wedding feast as well, and he wouldn't take no for an answer. It seemed as though our decision had been made for us, and we were going to be attending a Nubian wedding. I'd better get a clean shirt.
At 3pm Magzoob came to our hotel in his Corolla, and we headed off to the wedding in a cloud of dust - although more the state of the roads than the speed we were travelling at. We arrived at one of the largest homes in the town, which was filled with all the family and friends of the groom, about 200 manic children, and now, 3 out-of-place white tourists. We were shown around the house, feeling rather sheepish, and the reaction from everyone, rather than being awkward as we'd expected, seemed incredibly genuine and open. No one seemed the slightest bit put out that we'd arrived fairly unannouced, but were more than happy to welcome us into their house as guests. Amber had henna on her hands and ankles from the morning, which went down very well with the old ladies, while me and Steele were taken to the male side of the house, presumably to talk about cars and football.
Shortly after we arrived a large tray of food was carried into the room - one of thirty that the men had been preparing previously. The meal consisted of the ubiquitous foul (refried beans that were to be out staple for the next two weeks), bread, and a variety of other dishes, all of which were pretty tasty, but most of which contained various forms of meat - stomach included. Being a guest, a rubbish vegetarian, and very hungry, I got stuck in, trying to avoid the peices of stomach lining than were hidden in the potato and tomato sauce.
The feast eaten, we then waited for the party to start later in the evening. At 8pm, we were invited first to Magzoob's mother's house, for yet more another meal, and one in which she insited we try every dish - thankfully meat free. And then, we went back to the father of the groom's house for the party to welcome to the bride into the community. The party, to big to be inside, was in a square outside the house, and whole town's power seemed to have been rerouted into the lighting and sound system. Some things are clearly global, and at first, the majority of the guests, including all the men, were gathered in the shadows around the edges of the square, leaving the dancefloor to a handful of enthusiastic young girls. Slowly things got a bit livlier, and within an hour, at least 500 people must have been crammed into the square. Most of the older men were still mulling around the edge, while the older women sat in congress to one side, their colouful dresses reminiscent of the ladies in India, and a world away from the standard image of Islam that is portrayed by many in the West. Meanwhile the numbers of those willing to dance had increased, and now the centre of the square had become a pulsing, clapping, clicking mass of at least 200 people.
At about 10pm the bride and groom arrived, and were quickly dragged into the throng, shortly followed by myself, Steele and Amber, coerced by several elderly ladies who wouldn't take no for an answer. As with the meal earlier in the day, people seemed genuinely happy for us to be there, teaching us to dance, egging us to join in, and being delighted when we obliged. The main centre of attention, wasn't in fact the happy couple, but a fat man with a turban, a sweaty face, and a big smile, who'd clearly had more than his fare share of Nubian moonshine. If only I could have found his supply. We left the wedding at 11pm, with the dancing still in full swing, and sure to go on past the 11.30 power curfew, waved off by the women who so keen for us to join in.
At first glance Abri appeared to be nothing more than a dusty ghost town on the Nile, but once you get past the filthy hotel, and the lack of any stand out attractions, it's definitely got it's charm. The people are incredibly friendly, it's a very easy place to fall for, and a great place to be welcomed into Sudan.
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