Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(Photo from

The Rashaida are closely related to the Saudi Arabia Bedouin, who migrated to Sudan from the Arabian Peninsula about 150 years ago. Many Rashaida also live in the neighboring country of Eritrea; in fact, they make up five percent of the population of Eritrea (3.75 million people). In Sudan, they number around 68,000, and live mostly in the northeast part of the country on the outskirts of the city of Kassala, one of the most frequently visited spots in Sudan.

Nomads on the move.

Rashaida young couple

The Rashaida are a nomadic people who live in tents made of goatskins. They are herdsmen, breeding primarily goats and sheep. Since they are largely illiterate, they memorize in great detail the pedigree of their animals, keeping mental records of their herds over seven or eight preceding generations of the flock, although they usually only emphasize the female lines.

Rashaida preparing camel milk and sorghum for dinner.

Besides herding, the Rashaida also gain income through jewelry making. It is the veiled Rashaida women who craft much of the silver jewelry sold in the Kassala souq, or market, which is said to be one of the best in Sudan. Along with the jewelry, the Kassala souq supposedly markets some of the best and juiciest fruits Sudan has to offer. Kassala, with a population of 150,000, is a popular spot for tourists and Sudanese honeymooners, for it offers cooler temperatures than the rest of Sudan, along with beautiful mountains and tens of thousands of trees.

How does he move around with his big bed? I sympathise with the camel

Veiled from the age of five, Rashaida women are required by the law of purdah to cover their faces when they are in public. The mask is considered an expression of female beauty and its elaborate style has remained unchanged for more than 150 years.

The Rashaida are primarily Muslim, and very few Christians are known to exist among the group. The Rashaida combine their traditional Islamic religion with their ancient folk beliefs. They believe in the Jinn, an invisible people who live underground. Women often carry bags with buttons, shells, bits of smooth glass and beads in order to tell fortunes.


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