Yesterday, four of us girls piled into a Landcruiser and asked the driver where the Nubian wrestling was. It took a while to figure out what that meant in Arabic, and then for him to figure out where it happens, but we made it. Next to an outdoor furniture market, an arena had been constructed out of two-meter poles spaced at a two-meter distance, with tent walls hanging between them. So we had to buy a ticket to see what was going on inside. It was not expensive.
I won't get into the fighting itself, you can see it in action thanks to youtube.
But here are some of my observations:
- There were exactly ten women in the crowd, in comparison to perhaps 500 men. Only two of the women were Sudanese. We were all ushered to the only covered bit where we'd be safely segregated from the men. But we didn't get chairs.
- The wrestling teams were tribally defined. You fight for your family-slash-village. Each team had jerseys: green and white, purple and white, yellow and blue. But they took their jerseys off when they were in the ring, so I could never figure out who was from what team.
- Most wrestlers rolled up one of their pants-legs to make it super super short. Why?
- An Egyptian wrestler was in attendance and really wanted to get into the ring. Out of what appeared to me to be hospitality, they let him have a go, but it really was a joke. They didn't seem to be wrestling very seriously, and his competitor was about twice his height and twice his weight.
- One wrestler didn't make it into the ring because his team's time ran out before he got his turn. He was so upset he almost caused a riot!
- Older, distinguished looking men, would give cash prizes to the winners by counting bills on their foreheads: Five, ten, fifteen, twenty... take it it's yours!
- There was an old man there who played the role of mascot, saying enthusiastic unintelligible things. He took a cut of the winners' prizes.
- More often than not, the defeated wrestler was chuckling on the ground, and his victor would reach an arm down to help him up - often ending it with a friendly embrace. In fact, there was a lot of laughter all around. I like the happiness of this culture.
When it ended, we headed back to our landcruiser that we'd parked by a very long bright-green wall (I guess the other side of the wall was a row of shops). And this was the most memorable scene of the day for me... About 30 men, maybe more, were squatted facing the wall. Not standing, squatting. There were so many of them all lined up with maybe no more than a meter separating them! I think one or two of them were even doing Number Two. We couldn't help but watch since they were RIGHT in front of our vehicle.