The Ring

It was a weekday evening and my friend and I were just heading out to buy some milk and eggs from the corner shop. We decided to poke our heads around a corner into a wedding, but this small move, however, turned our whole evening inside out.

We were quickly brought a typical tray of wedding food. There are nearly always hundreds of people at a Sudanese wedding and everyone is served a fizzy drink and a tray of chicken, tamia (falafel), and other nice but simple foods, due to the sheer number of guests.

Soon the bride and groom entered the wedding venue accompanied by ear-piercing music from the band on stage and many people crowding around them. The bride was veiled and so beautiful and her picture was projected on a few screens around the venue, really like a celebrity.

The music, the lights, the stunning female toubs, the playing children, and the energy from the hundreds of guests were overpowering.

Once the newlyweds had reached the stage, many guests started dancing with and around them for a while. Then they went to take their place on grand chairs on the stage where the guests would approach them and offer their congratulations.

Once we could dance no more we sat down and watched everyone still bopping with the typical one-fisted pumping in the air style of dance. I was pulled over to a group of women of all ages and we had a good, long and very funny chat.

The lady in this picture here was the most friendly of them all, and seemed like the ringleader. She wanted me to get the perfect photo of her after adjusting her gorgeous toub and was quite happy with this one.

As I said my goodbyes to this lovely group, her young daughter shoved a silver ring on my finger and as I tried to return it to her she absolutely refused. I was stuck, once again, in the face of absurdly kind Sudanese hospitality and generosity. She was not taking it back, but I wear it every day and am forever reminded of that loud, bright, relatively raucous, happy and warm nighttime scene.

© Gabriella Zoe Harris. All rights reserved.


Despite the southern Sudanese town of Dinder feeling far poorer than parts of the north of the country – indeed, making parts of Khartoum feel quite affluent and extremely clean – the people were the most incredibly hospitable, generous and effortlessly selfless I have ever met.

We were taken to a bakery by a friend we had made in the town. It was midday and there was a crowd of people outside the bakery, looking fairly impatient and disgruntled. We waited along with them for half an hour so. Then, just as the bars at the front of the shop were opening to pass bags of bread out in exchange for SDG, we were pulled in through the back entrance for a private tour of the bakery.

It was industrial-sized and quite impressive, with about thirty men working inside. We were taken around the various ovens and other machines for the few different types of bread they baked here, and met and took photos with many of the bakers.

At the end of everything, we got two ginormous bags of bread hoisted upon us. We put our hands in our pockets to pull out some SDG but the bakers refused to accept anything. We put up a good and long fight but there was eventually nothing we could do.

So we left with the feeling that of all people in the world who should be giving their bread away, these men were at the very bottom of the list. But that it was this very fact that made the gesture all the more beautiful.

© Gabriella Zoe Harris. All rights reserved.

Dinder River Crew

As my friend and I hiked out of Dinder town down Dinder River, a tributary of the Blue Nile, armed with tent and provisions for up to five days, it began to really dawn on us how very strange this must be as an activity to the Sudanese.

We were first escorted by herdsmen with their clouds of goats. Then a bunch of boys who had been swimming in the Nile joined and we chatted and walked, as well as having a large photo session. We passed a few old men drinking tea as we started to leave the business of Dinder town behind and went right down onto the banks of the Nile. We had to dot between hiking right on the river and climbing up the steep riverbanks to the higher bank as partitions had been created between people’s land right by the river. We then came across a number of men working on the water pumps on the water or making bricks on the banks, and children and teenagers playing and hanging out.

It was a very slow, hot and interrupted beginning to the hike, but an extremely friendly and sociable one.

We hung out here for a while, playing with the camera, eating mangoes, and listening to music from their radio.

© Gabriella Zoe Harris. All rights reserved.

Traditional healing practices

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This photo is of my friend with whom I rode camels around the Thar desert for five days, slept under the stars, and got caught in storms and sandstorms. The latter were so vicious I had to be rushed to a local village woman by a young boy on his motorbike to remove the pieces of grit in my eye with tweezers, that had made me feel as if I was slowly losing my sight throughout the night.

I couldn’t open my eyes – they were too painful and sensitive to the beating sun – as I sat cross-legged outside her house. But in my mind I was in the middle of a beautiful scene of smiling children running in circles around us as she peeled my eyelids further and further upwards to exact more stubborn rubble from within.

I would love to conclude that this local and ancient method of restoring vision sufficed. That, however, was not the case. And the pain returned.

We reluctantly drove on to a bustling local hospital. I was immediately ushered into a very open room, flipped over and stabbed twice in the bum – once on each side – with sharp injections of painkiller.

I was told that someone had been throwing rocks in my eyes and was advised to avoid that. I was finally sent off with an extensive shopping list for eye-drops, tablets and medicines.

The pain waned, sight did eventually return, and I retreated once again to the desert.

© Gabriella Zoe Harris. All rights reserved.