It seemed an indelicate way to arrive at a religious ceremony. We bumped in, out and around gravestones set in desert scrub, before pulling up in the minivan in front of a huge circle of men in white robes.

The pounding beat got louder as we walked to the edges of the circle and saw what they were all watching: green, red and leopard-clothed mystics swirling and dancing in a hypnotic fashion in the middle of the circle.

Their faces told the story: blissful is the only way to describe it. The bumpy ride forgotten, all things forgotten but the compelling dancing, chanting and smiling faces.

It was Friday evening in Omdurman and I’d never seen the Sufi dancers before, despite living in Sudan for five months in 2007. At the time it seemed too touristy, and a long way to go on my one day off a week. Big mistake.

If you go to Khartoum, it’s definitely worth taking the tour arranged by the Acropole Hotel every Friday from 3pm. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to go, but pay about 30 Sudanese Pounds and you’ll see lots of sights and, most importantly, end up at the Sufi dancing in Omdurman.

To learn more about the Sufi religion, try reading this post on Sufism in Sudan.

“Standing barefoot above the sand and under the heat of a sizzling sun, a few men pick up the rhythm on their ‘tambours’ (drums) and chant ‘zikr’ melodically while the crowd swells palpably, grooving to the rhythm.”

(Posted by Alison Bate on Jan.1, 2012/Updated June 2019)