Marriage, the Sudan way.

Ladies in Bor South Sudan

Another story by Enrico, a fellow aidworker in South Sudan, who wrote several short stories on The Road.

Late evening, I step out of our compound with a Ugandan colleague for a last (walking) meeting, when we're approached by a man wearing an military uniform, visibly eager to chat with a Kawagia ("white man" in the local language).

Despite their past bellicose nature, the locals here in Jonglei, South Sudan are usually friendly and discrete. After the usual how-are-you question, he uncommonly ventures a bit further by inquiring for my name and my nationality, and abruptly asks:
- “What’s marriage like in Europe?”
- “I beg your pardon?”, I say doubtfully.
- “I mean, do you pay the brides by cow or by cash?”, he specifies.
- “Well, neither of the two.”, I respond casually to hide my amusement
- “So what’s the advantage for the owner of the girl then?”, he replies with a big smile and looks at me as if I’m coming from outer space. He chuckles and as he walks away he turns to my colleague and says:
- “Hey, black brother, you’d better tell your friend how it works!” still smiling and mulling over the funniest thing that ever happened to him.

Picture courtesy Ulrik Pedersen


A Lady's Life 05 June, 2009 20:22  

lol never a dull moment.
Leaves you speechless doesn't it?

Michael Keizer 12 June, 2009 20:20  

When my then girlfriend and I worked in a remote village in Eastern Sudan, we told our local colleagues that we were married to avoid ruffling too many feathers. Most of them really knew the lay of the land (you cannot live in literally close quarters without letting slip something now and then), but it gave them plausible deniability towards some of the more strait-laced people in the village. My last day there (I left a couple of weeks before my girlfriend) they could allow themselves to let slip the semblance of ignorance about our real marital status, and during the goodbye party we had the evening before I left, a lot of half-joking estimates were bandied around for how many cows I should pay my in-laws.

When we married, four years later, there were no cows in evidence, but I was tempted to bring one to the ceremony. Only the conviction that even the famously laid-back Amsterdam police would take a dim view of the damage likely to be inflicted on the council offices stopped me from following through.

Peter 12 June, 2009 22:40  

@A Lady's Life:



Beautiful story.. When my -then- girlfriend and I lived together in Uganda, I fortunately did not have to hide our unmarried status...


gindeel 19 July, 2010 18:01  

Hey Guys......
its kind of discrimination what u have here, u think that you having fun but u guys actually harming our feelings as Sudanese. u bro who had to hide his marital status trust me now one would have asked u if u would have spoke the truth, because u r Christian and ur religious is respected in my country and u have the right to bring ur girl friend. the kind of marriage u speaks about in ur story is only in south Sudan, if u go to the north you find there is no dowry at all we get married like how u gets.
I hope that u will learn to utilize uses of internet based on fact, inorder to let people have benefit from ur experience.
I apology if I express my opinion in a hard way, but u should know that we are human

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