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Alsarah: 10 Things I Love About Sudan

Khartoum-born singer Alsarah, front woman of the East African retro pop band Alsarah & The Nubatones, shares 10 things she loves about Sudan.

In our “10 Things I Love” series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.


In this new installment Khartoum-born singer and songwriter Alsarah, frontwoman of the East African retro pop band Alsarah & The Nubatones, shares the 10 things she loves the most about Sudan. Her group's newly-released album 'Manara' is available now.

With over 58 different tribes, languages, and cultures, Sudan is a large and diverse place to live. However due to the non-stop turmoil making travel so difficult and unsafe since its independence, most people are unaware of all the magic that is available there—even its own people.

I was born in the capital city of Khartoum where over a third of the country's population makes its home, but until I was in my early twenties I had never traveled too far outside the capital city. Hence I want to preface this list by saying: I probably don't know enough about the real magic of all that makes Sudan Sudan, and I am not sure any one of us alone does either—so I highly encourage anyone reading this article to chime in with their favorite spots as well as links so we can all share in the magic of Sudan with one another.

Nuba Wrestling

The Nuba Wrestling competition in Haj Yousef on Fridays is one of my absolute must-dos when in Khartoum. Haj Yousef is a suburb of Khartoum host to a variety of different peoples from different regions of the country (as is the case in most neighborhoods in this diverse city).

The competitions normally start after the Friday prayer and continue into the early evening. Here is a clip of one of the matches from the stadium I usually go to when visiting.

The Moolid aka Muslim Christmas

This is a celebration of the prophet Mohamed's birth. This was also my favorite holiday as a kid because you got to have a new outfit, go to the big maidan where everyone was gathered, and you got those giant pretty dolls which were made of colored sugar.

The dolls that you would sneak around and eat slowly behind your mom's back until you got caught and had to explain why the doll was missing half its head and you swear you didn't eat it, and no those aren't your teeth marks on her head...

The gathering in the Maydan. Image courtesy of Alsarah via Sputnik News.

The entire Shamalia State is magical!

While the majority of the land is desert up there, it's also host to the largest number of Nubian-built artifacts having been the seat of Nubian history until very recently (Nubia ended in Egypt, it didn't start there contrary to popular opinion) with the building of the High Dam in Egypt.

At the moment a great deal of new Dams are being built on the Nile in north Sudan causing a great deal of strife and putting a lot of this history in further jeopardy than it already is, so go now because this might not be possible down the road sadly.

Samekmek Fish Restaurant in Khartoum 2 (مطعم سمكمك الخرطوم 2)

Mind blowing fried fish! Seriously, just mind blowing! Just get to the Khartoum 2 area and ask any rikshaw driver and they will send you to the exact location. While you are there get into the Aseeda with Mula7 Nei3mia and a side of fresh arugula if they have it that day (depends on day of the week and time of day). Never forget to ask for the special dakwa hot sauce! #sudanisauce #gamechanger

"Sit Alshai" Across the Circle from Ozone Park

Ozone Park is arguably the bougiest place to be in Khartoum. It's a place where you can sit in the middle of a giant traffic circle shielded by old Neem trees and other greenery in Khartoum 2 rubbing shoulders with all the who's who of Sudanese upper crust inteligencia, bratty expat high schoolers, and other couples celebrating a special moment that warrants dropping $6 USD on some coffee...yeah that would be six US dollars my homie…

OR you can be like me and thousands of others and have your tea on the side of the street over by the tea lady and only pay $.25 for some bomb-ass tea! Maybe even a fresh benigt (aka ligaymat), if you time it right (e.g. before 9am)...see even these old school British guys were in on the secret...But seriously, the tea lady across the circle from there has particularly fancy batch of teas and her dried mint is always fresh!

Port Sudan and the Red Sea Area

Port Sudan is a large bustling port city on the Red Sea and perhaps Sudan's only “winter” resort area. By winter I really mean that time of year between November and January when it's pleasantly/borderline too hot, as opposed to oppressively-wanna-kill-yourself-hot. There is also a beach, and a perfect one at that. You can even take a boat cruise up the Red Sea all the way to Egypt! Around the Christmas and New Year season there are so many open air concerts to attend too!

Sudanese Weddings!

If you haven't been to a Sudanese wedding then you haven't done any socializing in Sudan. Considered by many to be the most important social activity in Sudan it can span anywhere from 2-7 days in activities, and usually takes months and months of preparations (including dance training for the bride).

There is also an entire industry of cosmetics built around the wedding activities, the star player of which are the Henna designers and practitioners. Every new year there are new fads of designs and patterns, and long waiting lists at the top salons in khartoum to get an appointment.

Henna drawing in Sudan. Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID. Creative Commons image via Flickr.

Rashid Diab Art Center

The Rashid Diab Art Center is one of the few places in Khartoum to see any new artwork... they also host workshops and concerts sometimes. Always worth passing by and asking to see what's up

The Sudan National Museum

The Sudan National Museum in Khartoum is surprisingly awesome and full of wonderful facts. Definitely worth a visit!

Buhen Temple reconstructed at the Sudan National Museum. Creative Commons photo by David Stanley (via Flickr).

Marrah Mountains in Darfur

The Marrah mountains are somewhere I've never been but always wanted to go. My dad used to work out there and always came home with lots of stories for us when we were kids. It's on my list of things to do in Sudan eventually.

Sports
Photo by Ned Dishman, courtesy of Pops Bonsu.

In Conversation: Meet Pops Mensah-Bonsu—the Ghanaian Former Pro Player Trailblazing the Front Desk of the NBA

We speak to the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go about his journey to professional basketball stardom, his hopes for the Basketball Africa League and more.

Nana Pops Mensah-Bonsu didn't take basketball seriously at first. For the now General Manager of the Capital City Go-Go and a former player in the NBA and European leagues, the game wasn't as exciting as other sports. "For me, I was impressionable," he says, "I was young; all my friends played soccer and ran track. That's what I really wanted to do."

Born and raised in London, England, the former pro with Ghanaian roots (whose name stems from his middle name, Papa—the equivalent to 'junior') grew up playing soccer and running track. His older brother started playing basketball, a relatively invisible sport compared to soccer, when he was about 16 in the early 90s and eventually moved to the U.S. on a scholarship. Mensah-Bonsu says that when parents witnessed his brother's experience, they took it as an opportunity for the rest of their children to do the same—allowing them to have a better opportunity to succeed.

Mensah-Bonsu's dad introduced him to basketball and took him to the other side of London where he started developing his skills. After juggling the three sports with basketball on the back burner, Mensah-Bonsu eventually realized his potential once he made the move stateside himself as a teen. Making a name for himself as a student-athlete at George Washington University, his work ethic led him to a professional career in both the NBA, playing for the likes of the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors as well as internationally—playing for clubs in Spain, France, Turkey, Russia and Italy, to name a few.

Retiring in his early 30s, Mensah-Bonsu is still a part of the game—but on the decision-making side. Currently serving as the Capital City Go-Go's general manager of the G League (the official minor league of the NBA) in Washington, D.C., he's trying to blaze a trail for more diversity and inclusion in the NBA front office. "I really want to do my best and succeed at this next level because I know how profound and impactful it can be if it's done well," he says. "I put pressure on myself to work extra hard to make sure I can get to this position where I can have that impact on these guys and show them a mirror image of themselves and show them how possible it is."

We caught up with Pops Mensah-Bonsu to learn more about his journey navigating basketball stardom to calling the shots behind the scenes, his hopes for the newly established Basketball Africa League and more in the interview below.

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Music
25K. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

How a 3-Year-Old Song Earned SA Artist 25K a Deal with Universal & a Co-Sign From AKA

We interview 25K, the South African rapper poised to be the country's next star.

AKA was so moved by up-and-coming Pretoria rapper and producer 25K's single "Culture Vulture," he gave him a slot on his monumental Orchestra on the Square concert in March.

"The whole process when Kiernan (AKA's real name) reached out," recalls 25K, who will later admit AKA is one of his favorite artists, "that was like a dream come true for me. We were doing a gig, when I got home, I got a text, and it said, 'Yo, this is Kiernan, hit me back.' So, I saved the number, I was like, 'Yo,' then he FaceTimed me. He was like, '25K, I just had to reach you, dawg. Your song is great,' So, I was out of words. Just listening to him talk to me. He was like, 'Bro, we need to cook up something.' But eventually, time will tell. So the people will get to hear."

Thabiso Khathi, the respected hip-hop head & record label executive popularly known as Hip-Hop Scholar, as well as the newly appointed Head of Urban at Universal Music Group South Africa, lets the cat out of the bag. "I don't know if the world knows that AKA officially jumped on the remix for 'Culture Vulture,' which we will be bringing out in the next few weeks," says Scholar. Today, him and the label have gathered journalists at the Universal Music Group headquarters in Rosebank to witness the young artist's signing.

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News Brief
Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Nigerian-British Actor Susan Wokoma's First Rom-Com Feature Film Is In the Works

She's set to write and star in BBC Films-backed 'Three Weeks'—a rom-com drama about abortion.

Just two months ago, we got wind of Susan Wokoma landing a series regular role in CBS' new comedy pilot, Super Simple Love Story.

The Nigerian-British actor and 2017 BAFTA Breakthrough Brit honoree continues to make power moves in entertainment, as it was recently announced that she's in the process of writing her feature debut, Three Weeks, Variety reports.

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