Kandahar Camel Market
We were five, sat in the back of a pick-up driving out of Khartoum by Sharia al-Nil, speeding along the bank of the Blue Nile. Through Omdurman, and Souq Libya we drove, out through the desert that surrounds Sudan’s capital—and most other towns in the north of the country—mountains visible on the horizon. We were headed for Kandahar, a village sharing its name with the Afghani city that was briefly its capital at the end of the 18th century. The sun was beating down on us, starting to envy the three in the front of the pick-up who were shielded from its searing heat and the dust of the Sudanese roads.
Turning off the road past the shells of old army trucks we enter souq Moowaileh, known for its camel market. Meat hangs from hooks in front of open restaurants as the call of the muezzin issues from the minaret of the mosque behind.
Sudan is known for its camel trade; many of the camels in Egypt come from here to this day. They used to travel along the Forty Day Road through the Libyan Desert from Sudan’s now infamous Darfur region.
Just outside of the market, small, squat, square buildings stand, their courtyards full of sheep and goats. Between them, groups of men dressed in their traditional djellaba stand with herds of camels, their livelihoods. The joking on the way out here, about how many camels we could procure in exchange for the girls present, was no longer a joke. Offers were made.
Back in the souq, we go to eat their meat. We are seated just as the Friday prayers start, and so everything stops for half an hour. Once over, the meat is brought down from the hooks and chopped on a well-worn slice of tree trunk, the axe glimmering in the sun. Women in toobs sit around perforated metal woks that sizzle over charcoals, frying the meat. Vast trays of it are placed before us, served with shutta (a spicy, chilli sauce) and delicious duqwa salad, comprising tomatoes, red onion and peanut paste. For most meals in Sudan, the round loaves of eshi act not only as the carbohydrate of a meal, but as cutlery, too, used to scoop up the food.