SHAFAQNA -Â 40-year old Amal Ahmed had seen it all before in the Sudanese state of Gazira where for as long as she can remember in her adult life.
The pulsating rhythm of Ramadan is a given during the course of the holy month for Muslims in Sudan where everything is not only shared but done in open spaces.
Although she laments that the modernization in cities such as Khartoum has diluted the purity of the some norms associated with the month, her own rural community in the middle of Sudan still holds fast to those traditions of open meals where both strangers and members of neighbourhoods sit side by side to share bread and foods prepared for Iftar.
Sudanese generally reserve their best behaviours of the year for the month of Ramadan when not only prayers and other acts of worship abound.
Like the rest of the Muslim world, Ramadan is very special in Sudan with its own unique spiritual air, enthusiasm, and excitement its communal prayers and its iftaar and Suhoor meals.
Since the Islam has been the religion of the majority people of Sudan since the seventh century, it has been an integral part of the old African customs and traditions of open sharing and caring.
Ramadan in Sudan has been both, religious event as well as a social and folkloric one. The customs of Ramadan are at the heart of families who have their own ways around it different from the other Arab or Middle Eastern countries.
Families in Sudan start preparations for Ramadan weeks in advance which rise to a fever pitch in the last few days before the month begins.
Apart from prayers, religious classes, rites and open-air Iftaar parties, works of charity, alms and other voluntary fund-raisings are common during the month.
The tradition of hospitality is as important in Sudan but it is especially prominent during Ramadan.
Most of the people prefer to take their sunset meals outside in open grounds.
For example the male population of a neighborhood or village assembles in a designated location Ã¢â‚¬â€ usually outside the home of the eldest person or the tribal chief for iftaar and to perform congregational Maghreb prayers.
Special dishes and drinks
Ramadan has its own special dishes in Sudan as women prepare different kinds of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Asida, Mulah Gurassa and Kissraâ€.
Because of the hot weather across the country, the Sudanese usually take traditional beverages cold.
The most popular is Abry which is made from sorghum flour and cold water.
In the last ten days of the month, most of the people especially the elders used to pray at night (Tahajod) from night until the dawn prayers interspersed with the reading of the Quran until sunrise.
As they prepare for the Ramadan in advance, most Sudanese families also keep a keen eye on the lead up to Eid by the middle of the holy month.
Clothes for kids and the traditional Jalabiya for men and Toab for women mean brisk business for dealers in such items.
Like Amal, Mohammed Fadul who resides in Khartoum told APA that some traditions synonymous with Ramadan in Sudan are gradually dying and blamed new habits and economic hardship as the causes.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“People have become more and more self-centred and the general economic crisis in the country has not helped preserve the customsâ€ he says.
Perhaps it falls within this context when most of Islamic leaders of sects conduct special prayers during Ramadan and send strong messages for tolerance and forgiveness.
Prayer for reconciliation
A number of people in IDP camps in Darfur have also weighed in on the situation to implore Sudanese to take the opportunity of the Ramadan to stop all conflicts and acts of violence across the country.
“We call on both the government and rebel leaders to take the opportunity to work for peace, reconciliation and stabilityâ€ they urged.
“We need to exorcise the devil from our midst and return to our old ways grounded on unity and reconciliationâ€ they added.
Sophyia leader Tariq Osman agrees.
He says the season of goodwill should start with the Ramadan and continue beyond it but warns however that Islam should not be misinterpreted and exploited by people prone to extremism and terrorism.
For Amal Ahmed, Gazira State is already showing the way for the rest of the country to follow and only then will Sudanâ€™s big cities be a happier and more tolerant place where people will share and care for each other during or beyond Ramadan.