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Among the numerous ethnic groups/tribes in the Kassala region, one I was particularly intrigued by was the Rashaida; sometimes referred to as Zebedia. This tribe traces its origins to the Arabian peninsula from which they migrated over a century ago. They claim to be ancestors of Haroon Al Rashid, some argue that their lineage stems from his wife Zubida. They are offended if you refer to them as Zebedia.

Although many centuries have passed, they have managed to grip onto their way of life and culture. They still maintain their nomadic lifestyle. Their Arabic accent is akin to those dialects of Gulf nations (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman). Their women always veil their faces in public. As a people they are fairly secluded and rarely marry from outside their ethnic group. Never really live in cities or urban areas and only enter Kassala proper to obtain goods, food, etc. Although, in recent years I have been told they started opening up to people and cordially interact with other ethnic groups in the region. They have increased their contact with people of the outside their circle.

As you enter Kassala you begin to see their settlements, usually a series of tents. They are a relatively wealthy tribe as they many are involved in smuggling of counter-bands. So their dwellings have been upgraded with the addition of satellite TVs and their preferred mode of transport, which in most cases are land cruisers or pickup trucks. Top of the line of course. I kid you not, as we drove each settlement of tents had a fairly brand new 4 wheel drive vehicle or pickup truck. It was such an odd paradox.

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