“Where are the people?” a staggering man asks, rhetorically, as he walks alongside me. “In the houses. Asleep.” he answers himself, slurring somewhat. Brick and concrete constructions had given way to grass and straw houses in this small village, bordering the hills that surround Kadugli. In a country where alcohol is illegal, it didn’t register at first that this man was blotto, but as the morning drew on, his walking turned to stumbling and the amount of spittle ejected from his mouth made the hot air even more humid.
He led me from hut to hut, perhaps to parade around this khawaaja—they don’t get many here—to other members of his community, but more likely to procure further moonshine en route. We entered one tokul where a lady was crouched over a small wood-fire, making kisra, the sour Sudanese injerra, a sort of galette. One of her children was summoned away from playing in the dirt to fetch a drink. I initially mistook it—rather optimistically—for water. On taking a mouthful it turned out to be ereegi, the locally brewed liquor, an extremely potent gin distilled from dates. It was eleven in the morning and I was already dehydrated; I could have done without that tipple.
Guided to another tokul, a its conical thatched roof providing shelter from the sun, more women were sat around preparing food for a later meal. In a mud-walled adjacent room sat the men-folk, all swigging from wooden bowls as they hunched around a radio from which issued traditional Nuba music. The subject of their thirst-quenching was merissa, a muddy-looking beer brewed from sorghum, a long cry from the stuff of Belgian breweries. Here in Sudan, they take what they can get, and my new “friend” was eager to indulge; when we left, him staggering through the doorway, his movement—and mood—became even more erratic. It was time to slip away, hoping he wouldn’t follow me back to town: being caught drunk in Sudan carries lashes as punishment. “Ma salaama, mon pote.”
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