The Origins of Sudanese Cuisine
Sudan, South Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia are collectively recognised as the birthplace of African civilisation. Evidence of the Nile Valley civilisation in Sudan dates back 70,000 years. Evidence of settlements at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile – known today as Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city – date back to 9,000 years.
Around 5,000 years ago the Nubian civilisation rose to prominence in Nubia, which is today spread over Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. During this time the desert region was smaller and more humid, meaning Northern Sudan’s landscape was an area of lush, fertile grasslands and thus an ideal habitat capable of nurturing communities and their animals. The main methods of acquiring food available to Nubians at the time were hunting and fishing as well as gathering wild grains; wheat, barley, millet, and sorghum, fruits including melons, grapes, and dates, pulses like fava beans and leafy vegetables such as mulukhiyah. The relative proximity that pastures enjoyed to the Nile meant that these fruits and legumes were plentiful. Sudan is home to the largest portion of the longest river in the world, the mighty River Nile, and boasts the most pyramids of any nation, at 230. Nubian history is one of the oldest in Africa, though often misrepresented as Ancient Egyptian history, a separate, distinct historical entity extending north of Nubia along the Nile. In fact, the term “Ethiopia,” meaning “burnt face,” was used by Ancient Greeks to refer to the Nubian civilisation south of Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians and Nubians spent many centuries trading, conquering one another and sharing cultures, eventually becoming responsible for the rise of other civilisations throughout Africa, Eurasia and the Mediterranean.
For a long time the local Nubian diet changed very little as the natural environment supplied an abundance of food for the early inhabitants of the region and their livestock. Ancient travelers to Nubia’s metropolis, Meroë, spoke of a legendary Table of the Sun, a grand table set in the meadows of a local magistrate’s home at the height of the region’s prosperity. The legend describes a banquet table filled with an abundance of local delicacies of boiled meats in rich stock infused with cumin (which is native to the Nile Valley), milk products like yoghurt, various fruits, breads, wines and beers. The food was replenished each night allowing daytime strollers to enjoy the finest produce of the region; the abundance of items led some to believe that the food was magically replaced as soon as it was consumed. This culture of mass provision and generosity still survives in Sudan. Today, large clay vessels known as zeers dot residential streets of Sudan, usually under the shade of a tree, and are regularly replenished by locals living in the area, allowing passersby to get a refreshing drink using a metal cup or koze, and take refuge from the blazing glare of the sun.
Over time, Nubia’s flourishing agriculture and trade opened it up to more external influences, allowing the introduction of locally unavailable ingredients, thereby changing the regional cuisine. Due to its location and proximity to the Red Sea, Sudanese land has always been a transit location for many groups, not only from the region, but from all over the world. Ancient trading routes such as China’s Silk Road, the Sabaean lane to India, and voyages across the Indian Ocean have for a long time connected Asia with Africa via Sudan, mainly through the Red Sea Coast. Long before the rise of the Eastern Mediterranean, the ancient Indian Valley civilisation of today’s Pakistan and northwestern India, played a major role in shaping the kingdoms of the Nile valley around 4,000 years ago, while Kerma was its thriving capital. This is especially true in terms of the food culture, a possible indication of the similarities between Sudanese stews and South Asian curries. Sudanese stews adopted the slow and tempered cooking often associated with South Asian cooking as well as an understanding of basic spicing to complement cooked meats. Traders from the Indus Valley further encouraged the reliance on the abundant local grains including wheat, sorghum and millet that later defined regional Sudanese staples such as kisra, asida and gurrassa. As a result, cultivation of the local grains began to take hold – wheat and barley were consumed in the early winter months, while sorghum and millet were consumed in spring and early summer. From further east, Asian vegetables such as the Malaysian yam, rice, bananas and sugarcane may have travelled along the same ancient trade roads, passing through Sudan and eventually spreading into Africa where they have been adopted as part of the local diet.
Meroë later became the new capital and the centre of a booming iron industry that traded with the Arabian Peninsula, Central Africa, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), India, Greece and Rome. The iron trade drew many foreigners and their settlement gradually made an impression on the local food culture. Carved in hieroglyphics on the walls of Nubian temples are the oldest known recipes, containing instructions on how to make bread and beer. Civilisations of the time were known to cultivate and process wild grains, using grindstones to make flours for breads. Aish, meaning life or living in Arabic, is the term used to describe baked wheat breads and sorghum grain – an apt naming given the widespread and multi-purpose use of bread in Sudanese meals. Meroë, was home to the Sudanese flatbread, kisra (now the national bread), developed by fermenting the common sorghum grain and spreading a layer of batter on a flat surface into wafer-thin sheets. The early Nubian diet consisted of these breads, local fruits and vegetables, fish from the rivers, as well as beef and milk and other dairy products from their livestock.
In these formative centuries, Sudanese cuisine began to blend cultural influences from the Eastern Mediterranean region. These influences moved through Sudan in a north-to-south fashion from early Eastern Mediterraneans / Mesopotamians/Sumerians, Egyptians, Arabs, and later Turks. The ancient nomadic groups of rural Sudan used their intimate knowledge of the land to relocate their livestock to fresh pastures with harvest patterns of the foods they ate such as millet, sorghum, barley, cowpeas, dates, and other fruits. Domesticated animals such as sheep and goats came into Sudan from the Levant and were incorporated into pastoral life. Rice, salads, pickles, spiced meats, and cheeses were adopted and served alongside African foods such as stocks, stews, beans, and breads. The creative and complex fusion of these two cooking styles manifests most evidently in stews and is responsible for the interesting blend of flavours we find in Sudanese dishes.
Between the 3rd and 6th centuries, the Nubian Kingdom of Meroë began to fall and the rise of the Byzantine empire in Greece and Egypt brought Greek and Egyptian Coptic Christians into Northern Sudan. Ethiopian Christians from the Aksumite empire who captured Meroë in 350 AD also took hold of the region and established three Christian kingdoms in Northern Sudan: Nobatia, Makuria and Alwa. The influx of Christianity brought with it new peoples, and new ways of satisfying unfamiliar palates. The Ancient Greeks ate wheat, barley, and lentils, forming the early Mediterranean diet that spread across the eastern Mediterranean and into Northern Sudan during its late Nubian and later Christian periods. Fava beans, cucumber, celery, leavened bread, honey, and wines grew popular in this period – all except wines have remained until today (Andrew Dalby, Flavours of Byzantium, Prospect Books, 2003).
THE ADVENT OF ISLAM
The arrival of Islam and Arab culture in the 7th century had the most significant impact in shaping both the regional cuisine and culture of Northern Sudan, part at the time of the Christian Kingdoms along with Southern Egypt. Arab influences came in the form of merchants, diplomats, travelers and slavers from the Arab peninsula who were predominantly males of the elite classes. Rice, honey, mint, rare spices including coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and new fruits and vegetables such as aubergines, and limes were introduced and incorporated into the Northern Sudanese diet as well as the then fashionable complex cooking styles encouraged by the extravagant Arab traders. The Arabs’ tastes for fine foods developed from their lucrative trade with Persians on the Silk Road, where they came in close contact with the highly renowned Persian cuisine. Like Indian cooking before it, Persian cooking was pioneering at the time and has had an unmistakable impact on the surrounding cuisines throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia, that prevails to this day. Syrian and Turkish cuisines of the 10th and 16th centuries respectively, were among such cuisines that developed in the shadow of Persian food and rose to prominence following Islam’s expansion throughout the eastern Mediterranean. All three, in line with imperial activities directly in Sudan (as with the Turks) or mediated through other imperial forces (as with the Persian influences carried by the Arabs), played a significant role in shaping modern Sudanese cuisine. The Arab elite arriving into Sudan at the time, having been influenced by Persian tastes, enjoyed many rare and expensive ingredients such as wheat breads and salads as a result of their prosperity, consuming bountiful feasts that were discarded the next day. Their food was symbolic of their opulent status and catered to refined palates seeking to experiment with ingredients and amplify the culinary experience for pleasure without the fear of food shortage.
The Christian Kingdoms of Northern Sudan, particularly Makuria, saw futile attempts of invasion by Abdallah ibn Abi Sarh, appointed as governor of Egypt by Uthman ibn Affan, the third caliph of the Islamic empire. The Baqt peace treaty came to end these invasions and lasted a record number of 700 hundred years (until the 14th century). The Baqt, though effective in stopping direct attacks on Northern Sudan, did not stop infiltration and exploitation through other less explicit means. For instance, one of the conditions of the treaty was the yearly provision of 360 slaves from the region to Arab slavers, a practice that came to define a more expansive Arab slave trade after the fall of the Christian Kingdoms. The Baqt also allowed Arab infiltration into Northern Sudan through trade and marriage with locals, giving them social immunity and a foothold in political and institutional spheres of influence and authority, so that the region fell completely into their hands after the demise of the Christian Kingdoms.
On account of the associated religious contract that followed the inception of Islam in Sudan, Sudanese cuisine henceforth conformed to halal regulations. The word halal is Arabic for permitted or lawful and refers to foods allowed for consumption under Islamic dietary guidelines. According to these guidelines Muslims cannot consume pork or pork by-products, land animals without external ears (e.g. reptiles and amphibians), carnivorous animals, animals that were dead prior to slaughtering, animals not slaughtered in the name of Allah, blood and blood by-products, and alcohol.
This period marked the start of the gradual Arabisation of Eastern, Northern, and later Western Sudan, as well as a booming slave trade that would last for centuries and ultimately defined the region. This history laid the foundation of the complexity of modern Sudanese racial identity. Many Afro-Arab Sudanese suppressed their African heritage in order to align themselves with the Arab identity of the political and social elite. Many accentuated their Arab identity or claims to an Arab pedigree in order to avoid enslavement and conform to the growing environment of Arab supremacy in these regions of Sudan (The post-colonial state and civil war in Sudan, Noah Bassil). This aided the spread of Islamic and Arab cooking practices and influences that exist in Sudan’s cuisine today.
Whereas Islam’s first arrival into Sudan was predominantly orthodox Sunni Islam from the Arabian Peninsula, its second wave arrived into Darfur from west and northwest Africa, often including elements of Sufi Islam, a more mystical teaching that played an integral role in the spread of Islam throughout Africa (well into the 20th century). It is interesting to note that the spread of Islam in these regions of Sudan are strikingly different. Islam in Darfur spread through the foundation of a regional monarchy, the Darfur Sultanate, that unified the various groups of Darfur. While in Riverain Sudan, Islam required a certified agreement signed in 641, al Baqt, detailing the rights of individuals, a slave trade and more than seven hundred years of Arab-endorsed patrilineal intermarriage before Islam was confirmed as the established religion.
Before the arrival of Islamic governance in Sudan, beer and wine were an outwardly practiced part of Sudanese culture. Drinking houses, known as anadi (singular: indaya) or kumbo, served beers (merrissa), spirits (aragi), and sometimes even food, and provided their strictly male clientele with a social space for discussion, leisure and indulgence. Merrissa beers are made from either sorghum or millet and are prepared in varying concentrations to suit every mood, while aragi is a distilled date spirit with a high alcohol content. In 1983 and towards the end of the Nimeiri regime, the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on President Nimeri had begun to chart the beginnings of a nationwide Sharia (a set of Islamic laws) that adhered to a fundamentalist Islamic nature. Known as the ‘September Laws’, these dictates were met with acrimony from secularised Muslims, some conservative Muslims who contested the religious basis of some laws, and non-Muslims who were socially and politically ostracised by these decrees. Nimeiri’s growing unpopularity and the rocketing economic inflation in the country led to a popular coup in 1985 that saw the installation of the pro-Islamist leader Sadiq al-Mahdi in the subsequent election and the deeper hold of Sharia as the law of the land. With this institutional change came the ban of alcohol and the control of public life by the government.
Some anadi still remained open, albeit covertly by devising a system of colour-coded flags – strategically placed so as to be visible from the outside – as indicators of the level of danger of governmental vigilance inside – for instance a red flag indicated a warning and to return another time, while a green or yellow flag indicated that it was safe to enter. For the majority of the country, beer and spirit drinking are today practiced in people’s own homes or the home of a female brewer called sit al indaya/fadadia. Western Sudan still continues their age-old tradition of drinking the millet beers merrissa, which are often consumed by devout Muslims with tolerant Sufi ideologies as a meal to last the better part of the day, albeit with a light/mild buzz.
As Islam spread throughout neighbouring regions, Sudan came to be a connecting bridge for African Muslim pilgrims traveling along the Sudan Road. From the 12th century onwards, pilgrims from West Africa made their way to the Holy city of Makkah, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, through Sudan to the famous port of Suakin, near Port Sudan. The movement of African migrants traveling from west to east aided the spread of regional African foods to all corners of Sudan. The simple foods these pilgrims made popular in Sudan functioned primarily as a practical survival tool to sustain them during the long, arduous journey to Makkah. Fermentation, a practice originally developed by African ethnic groups, thus became a common form of food preparation, allowing the limited amount of food carried by pilgrims in their travel to be preserved and consumed for longer periods of time, particularly during droughts and dry seasons.
Fermented breads such as asida have their origins in Western Sudan and might have arisen for similar reasons. It is made simply by fermenting dough then cooking it in simmering water into a porridge dumpling. Asida is served with a Western Sudanese gravy called mullah, certain mullahs use dried ground meat called sharmout that can be preserved for a long time. Fermented foods provided essential nutrition and were often found to be more palatable, healthier and easier to digest in their fermented form. Other fermented foods include: fermented grains such as sorghum (kisra), wheat (gurrassa), sun dried fruit and vegetables (weka), air dried meat from livestock (sharmout), dried fish (kajeik), fresh fish (faseekh and maluha), soured milk (roub) and other drinks (hilu mur) and beers (merissa). The benefits of fermented foods were quickly understood and shared; fermenting jars became widespread and are still used today. Analysis of Ancient Nubian bones indicates that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, a type of antibiotic, likely from their fermented beer and may have contributed to their survival. Sudan arguably has the greatest variety of fermented foods in Africa. Even the British colonial army learned from and implemented the indigenous fermentation techniques for subsistence during long journeys across Sudan and beyond.
The early kingdoms and civilisations of the first millennium used traditional cooking, fermentation and storage techniques as part of their daily cooking routines. Traditional cooking techniques such as campfires called ladayat, involved clay (and later metal) pots placed on stacked bricks on either side of the campfire flame, fuelled by hay from the fields and a fan to help ignite and maintain the flame. The steady, low heat of the campfire gradually cooked the ingredients and necessitated a slow prolonged cooking process that is still used to prepare today’s stews. The early cooking style was not concerned with precision or accuracy. Suitable quantities and timings were discovered by a process of trial and error as well as by tasting the dish throughout the cooking process. This idiosyncrasy formed the foundation of modern Sudanese and other similar cooking styles and may have been largely influenced by the Ancient Indian culture. Recipes and techniques were passed down through little more than verbal instruction. Many if not all Sudanese cooks, including myself, have used this process to learn how to cook Sudanese food. This mode of learning teaches creative freedom and encourages the development of a personal relationship to the food one prepares that cannot be forged through mechanically following a standard recipe.
COLONIAL AND IMPERIAL HISTORIES
Comparatively more recently – only five hundred years ago – European prospectors, opportunists and slavers traveling between West Africa and the American continent, swiftly introduced American foods into much of the African continent. These included pan-American foods such as corn, cassava, peanut, sweet potato, tomato, common beans, chilli peppers, pumpkin, and potato. Such additions to African and Sudanese agriculture quickly became popular for their robust growth, ensuring a more reliable stock and a lucrative trade potential. Cassava and corn were easily adopted and grown in South Sudan’s lush terrain. Tomato became the base of many Sudanese stews, while peanuts/groundnuts became the defining flavour of Sudanese food, known outwardly to the Arab world as fuul sudani, Sudanese beans. With the following Turkish and later British occupations occurring two and three hundred years later, respectively, Sudan experienced a large influx of economic migrants from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Turkey, the Balkans and more notably Greece, Armenia, Hungary and the Levant, who had varying impressions on Sudan’s local cuisine.
By the mid 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had made a huge impact on Sudanese food and culture when annexing Sudan following their conquest of Egypt. The Turks advanced the farming practices in rural Northern and Central Sudan then made many expeditions throughout their newly acquired lands, exporting gum, ivory, hides, senna leaves and ostrich plumes from Darfur, hides from Kassala and ivory, cotton, sesame oil and cattle from local herders.They took advantage of Sudan’s agricultural potential close to the Nile and popularised common Mediterranean leafy vegetables such as arugula, purslane and exercised and spread their knowledge of preparing meats and their unique style of cooking, known for innovating a range of dishes from the local produce and developing well balanced spice blends. Turkish food, such as musaka and stuffed vegetables, mahshi, soon began regularly appearing on Sudanese tables. This period also reinforced Greek, Levantine and other Mediterranean foods from Sudan’s Christian period such as lentil soup, adas, breads and porridges, fish, lamb, olives, wild greens, fruits and wine, and even Balkan foods, such as feta cheese, pastries and stewed meat and vegetables. Yahni, known in Greek, Arab and Turkish cuisines, is known as a stewed meat broth with cooked vegetables, in a tomato sauce with caramelised onions which is known in Sudanese cuisine as tabeekh or tabayikh (pl.). Tabayikh are stewed meat dishes that originate from Sudan’s Turkish period.
Shortly after the British gained control of Sudan at the turn of the 20th century, work on the Gezira scheme (1925 – 1946) began to expand the country’s lucrative agricultural potential. The Gezira plain is a triangular piece of land lying south of Khartoum between the Blue and White Niles. The land naturally slopes downwards away from the Blue Nile, and so the construction of the Sennar Dam in 1914 made it ideal for a large scale gravity irrigation agricultural scheme spanning an area of about 240,000 feddans, or 100,800 hectares – the largest in the world. Originally, this land was of multi-faceted use, with local farmers using it to grow dietary staples such as maize, sorghum and a range of other grains and vegetables including wheat, ground nut, chickpeas, other bean varieties, cucumber, arugula, onions and animal feed to sustain themselves and supply markets, and nomads using it as seasonal pasture for their livestock. It was also a multiethnic crossroads as pilgrims to Mecca from West Africa passed through Gezira and provided trade opportunities for local food markets during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. However, the British soon implemented the more “rational” and highly profitable large scale production of the cotton cash-crop as a vital commodity of Europe’s burgeoning industrial, capitalist economy.
Under the Gezira Land Ordinance of 1921, the colonial administration forcibly took over farmland and rented irrigated tenancies to its original owners. The imposition of a productive, agrarian regime on local Gezira farmers resulted in a vast gridwork of Gezira canals and miles of strictly regulated fields with tight supervision from British inspectors. This rigid bureaucratic scheme controlled which crops tenants grew, how much they planted, when they harvested and how they purchased their materials, ensuring that very little land was used to sustain the farmers and their markets. The average income of a farmer decreased by 70% and the wildly diverse indigenous farming systems were destroyed during this time.
The implementation of the Gezira scheme was an extension of a global pattern of colonial exploitation and enslavement following the abolition of slavery in Britain. The accumulation of capital and resources that could satiate this crisis in free human labour was resolved through Europe’s claim to Africa’s riches. Cotton production in Sudan was set to rejuvenate British industry and create British profit in the world market. But despite high hopes for the scheme, it did not reach its potential due to mismanagement by the British administrators and resistance from local farmers. Most employed British inspectors had no formal training in agriculture and local farmers would often withheld labour, refuse to pay tenancy or actively protest on site. This led the British to develop the stereotype of the Sudanese worker as lazy and ungrateful (which still survives) without providing the colonial context for this behaviour.
Today, the Gezira scheme is still not a source of subsistence for Khartoum and Gezira or local farmers – it remains a failed cotton production project. Self-styled as the “bread-basket of the world,” Sudan still depends on imports for the provision of even the most basic food items, while successive governments since the 1980s and business tycoons, have continued to disregard farmers’ intimate knowledge of their environment in favour of maintaining scheme structures, policies and revenue for the elite classes. Moreover the scheme has entered the public imagination as a mark of modernity and civilisation, a monument of Sudan’s ability to live up to colonial measures of commercial success and efficiency while destroying locals’ ties to their lands and right of subsistence.
The imposition of colonialism on Africa altered its history forever. Even as we celebrated the victory of independence, the borders of our new states assumed the colonial geography of the alliance of expansionist European powers. The ‘scramble for Africa’ and the European claim on this treasure trove eradicated indigenous ways of life, arrested the development of burgeoning African economies and exploited physical and human resources for its sake. Whole nations were simultaneously homogenised into an artificial people whilst also internally being atomised and balkanised so that ancient foes were forced to live cheek-by-jowl. This played an immense role in concretising previously multi-layered, complex and fluid categories of ethnic identity in Africa and created new forms of ethnic affiliations that in turn intensified existing conflict and became fodder for future ones. Since the age of empire, Sudan and its African sister states have been afflicted with the debilitating psychosis of their nineteenth-century birth at Bismarck’s Berlin conference of 1884. Sadly, this system of exploitation has been inherited and utilised by African clones and tyrants who have continued to line their pockets and accrue political capital while unearthing and annihilating all manifestations of dissent.
Figure 1: Administrator in the British Empire Arthur Gaitskell’s map showing the Gezira Scheme superimposed on the map of England. This map not only highlighted the sheer size of this colonial project but also aroused a colonial sentimentality in British readers that justified British takeover of Gezira and divorced it of the Sudanese context. Reproduced courtesy of Faber and Faber, London. (Bernal, Cultural Anthropology, 1997)
MODERN SUDANESE CUISINE
Between the 15th and 20th centuries, a growing number of people left behind their nomadic lifestyles for the stability and reliability of livelihoods offered by the then commercially burgeoning capitals of Dongola, Soba, Sennar, Semna and Suakin. Khartoum and Port Sudan, founded much later, c.1820, also became prime destinations for migrants seeking settlement. This transition to modernity ushered new forms of local, consistent community and a more rigid work structure demanding a stricter compartmentalisation of time – all of which required a different set of culinary practices and experimentation. Stable homes in the city allowed for the emergence of a unique space where this experimentation took place. Food was stored and prepared in a small room outside the main house called a tukul. This was likely the first Sudanese kitchen and designed to be as cool as possible by being built in a well-shaded and ventilated area of the grounds, and having high rectangular windows and a ceiling made of weaved palm leaves stacked over one another, supported on a central wooden beam. A tukul would typically contain an area to heat raw ingredients, food storage areas, perishable food storage, a small bread oven, a small low table, tablia, and simple stools. Raw ingredients were heated over a contained fire, doka, and then later over hot coals on a grated metal box called a kanoon or mangad. Grains were either pounded into flour in a large wooden mortar, known as a fundug, or milled between stones called a murhaka, allowing for freshly baked breads to be made in a small bread oven. Makeshift shelves with thin mesh netting on either side, known as a namleeya and hanging baskets called mushla’eeb were installed to store the foods that spoiled such as dairy and meat products. Most evenings after dusk, when the children in rural Sudan returned home from playing outside in fields and rivers, they quietly entered the tukul and retrieved their dinner, left there for them by their mothers and carers, from the hanging mushla’eeb basket, often needing a stool for reach.
The tukul became the area of the house where women would gather and prepare daily meals together, further developing and refining the cuisine as a creative outlet as well as passing on their knowledge to young girls as part of their preparation for womanhood. Many of my early attempts to participate in the activities of the kitchen had been futile, establishing it as a woman’s domain in Sudanese culture. As the tukul was out of bounds for men, women felt free to speak their minds without judgement, raise their voices, laugh loudly and remove their headscarves. Ironically, the sexist segregation that was imposed on women was weaponised by them into a powerful space for collective healing and solidarity. Once secured as a female space, the tukul became a physical representation of female expression, sanctuary, culinary creativity and domestic dominance in an outwardly patriarchal society. By this time, women were generally the main providers of food, childcare and domestic chores. This has remained unchanged in most rural areas while urban centres saw widespread female education campaigns in the early 1900’s, allowing women to leave the domestic domain relatively recently.
Sudanese cuisine is just one expression of culture that equally communicates West African, East Mediterranean, indigenous East African and to a lesser degree South Asian, influences. For over 5,000 years Sudan has acted like a sponge, absorbing cultures and foods from its surrounding areas and its governing colonisers, infusing some – such as the Levantine and Turkish cuisines – more deeply than others into its already rich indigenous foods. Today, Sudanese cuisine consists of: soups, salads, dips, a variety of meat and vegetable slow cooked stews know as a mullah and tabeekh, rice dishes, fried and barbecued meats and fish, sweet and savoury pastries and baked goods, a wide selection of desserts and plenty of hot and cold drinks. Lamb and chicken are the preferred meats of choice, in line with other Islamic countries, however beef is also cooked, as well as fish if it is easy to obtain. The cuisine can be described as rich food that has a heavy influence of meat and vegetables that are artfully spiced and slow cooked to bring out an optimal flavour.
Today and especially in rural parts of the country, Sudanese food still contains a widely diverse collection of unique national dishes. Since the advent of the technological age, urban centres have seen other outside influences with more Eastern Mediterranean, European and other international foods becoming increasingly popular on food media shows on television and the internet. In these urban centres, the younger generation seeks instant gratification through the abundant and constantly expanding number of restaurants and cafes dotted around Khartoum, as their regular pastime. Traditionally, girls are still expected to continue the culinary culture though few modern city girls make the time to learn the domestic skills expected of them due to ever increasing educational, social and personal responsibilities. The future of Sudanese cuisine is unsteady if these trends continue. While many enjoy the national food, the trend of quicker international foods threatens the preservation of the national cuisine that is often unjustly associated with a long cooking time. Simply put, the younger generation wants to have their mullah and eat it too.