It is rare to see gatherings such as this in Sudan. But as much of the western world was celebrating St. Valentine’s day, Sudan’s sufis were this year celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

In Khartoum, in Omdurman and in Bahri—the three cities centred on the confluence of the two Niles—tents were erected and, for Sudan, a carnival atmosphere ensued.

Amid the sellers of traditional sweets, people listened to tales of the Prophet’s life from various Sufi sheikhs, they prayed en-masse, and the dervishes entered trance-like states.

Working on a piece with Simon Martelli for AFP, we were told:

“Some of them feel like their minds are out of their bodies. At this time, they do not feel anything outside. An old man who cannot normally stand for 15 minutes; here he will dance for three of four hours.”

A welcome break from the typical pace of Sudanese life.