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Sudan; Getting to Know the Local Customs

Sudan is a country with a deep, and often dark history, going back more than ten thousand years. Stricken by conflicts and natural calamities, Sudan has endured a lot of tough times. Though beneath that, lies cultures with hundreds of ethnic groups and languages, which makes it one of the most diverse countries on the planet.

Local Customs Sudan

Sudan is among the twenty-five poorest countries in the world. It has faced droughts, famine and has a staggering foreign debt that almost caused an expulsion from the International Monetary Fund in 1990. Amid the challenges Sudan still faces today, a lot of humanitarian aid workers visit the African country regularly. To be able to offer aid in an efficient way abroad as a newcomer, it is important to know the local customs. Sudan has a few idiosyncratic customs you need to keep in mind.

The Sudanese greet in a very formal way. They expect the same behavior from a foreigner. Usually, the host will ask about the visitor, his family, and general wellbeing. Then it’s time to discuss business if it’s on the agenda. When a newly arrived friend or associate interrupts an on-going conversation, it is not considered impolite. After that, the original conversation picks up where it was left off.

Sudan is still a society very much focused on the patriarchy. A western man can’t just ask about the wife of a Sudanese host. When two men meet, the local custom is not only to shake hands; they will simultaneously tap each other’s shoulder as well. Sudanese ladies and their friends might hug or rub each other’s cheeks. For guests, especially western men, it is considered quite rude to point the soles of their feet at Arabs. Also, when you want to gesture someone to come over, one does not do that in western fashion by crooking the finger at a guest. This is seen as deeply disrespectful. Instead, you extend your hand, palm faced downwards, and motion towards yourself.

Among the more important local customs to keep in mind for western women in Sudan is to dress properly. Halter tops and shorts in public areas are offensive to the Sudanese and can result in getting insulted.

Because of the intense climate and the culture, Sudanese people do not have the same particular sense of timing that a western person has. When you have a meeting at noon, for example, don’t be upset when your appointment arrives at 12:30 or 12:45. Patience is a virtue in dealing with local Sudanese customs.

Lastly, you'll have to keep in mind that you need to obtain a permit to take photographs of any kind. And even with a permit, there are some places in Sudan where it is prohibited to take pictures. Make sure you arrange your permit early and be aware of the small prints, as it is in the details what you need to know about where you may and may not take photographs.

We’re proud to serve any humanitarian who’s willing to help those in need in Sudan or anywhere else in the world. We regularly arrange travel for compassionate, faith-based organizations who are dedicated to helping those in dire need of help. Never hesitate to contact us through our quick address locator should you have any questions.