I have been meaning to write about my Eid Al-Adha trip for sometime now. I spent this holiday with my father’s side of the family. The trip was a 2-part saga in which the first leg of the journey led us to Atbara. A railroad town/city roughly 3 hours north of Khartoum. Sudan is an obsessively ethnocentric nation, in which ethnic makeup and geographical roots define the vast majority. Each residents of each region/city take pride is perpetuating their persona, which at times resemble a string of accumulated stereotypes. Atbara is a city that defies that mold, originally a railroad junction established by the British, it lives on its former glory days. Its residents oddly are obsessed with time and order ( a rare thing to find in Sudan). The railroad still active but not as it once was, it no longer retains the same clout due to the increase of paved roads and use of personal cars and buses. Nonetheless, many thanks to the railroads intensely close communities were forged, ones where ethnicity does not play a role. The first 2 days of the holidays were spent making the rounds between uncle/aunts homes and eating considerable amount of meat. I have not handled or eaten so much meat in a 2 day period, in all forms and types: bbq-ed, stewed, minced, and so on. Growing up with 2 vegetarians in the household, meat was used as flavoring in my food only and never consumed as a main meal.
The third day more family piled into their cars and we headed off up north to Abu Hamad to take a ferry to Mougrat Island (4 hours north of Atbara). The place where my father was born and grew up. I had never been here and I’ve always wanted to see it. For one of my uncles it was a journey back for the 1st time in decades. Mougrat is the largest island on the Nile River, way of life is a world a ways from Khartoum or even Atbara. The number of donkey-drawn carts vastly outnumber motorized vehicles. An electricity network was set up by the residents and powered by generators as no formal networks are in place.
Immediately after disembarking from the ferry we were greeted by fine silt dust that covered the banks of the Nile River. Once we arrived at the house, we were greeted by a multitude of extended family members that I had never met, each trying to explain how we are related. I lost track fairly quickly. To be honest the relationship didn’t even matter, knowing that we were family was enough. Besides there was no way I would be able to distinguish the convoluted family structure.
I spent an amazing few days, getting to know the land, the people and the environment. I visited my grandfather’s old home, the place were my father grew up. We roamed around my grandfather’s farmland and date trees. Heard stories of my father’s mischief and debauchery that made me laugh till I cried. Time spent here, without once thinking about TVs, internet or any electronic devices was refreshing. Despite never setting foot on this island prior to this trip I was immediately made to feel at home.