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Hidden treasure of the dessert.

SUDAN For two years, photographer Michael Freeman travelled all over Africa's largest country, visiting every major town and village, including some areas that no Westerner had seen for decades. The resulting images, featured in his book Sudan: The land and the People, capture the geographical and ethnic diversity of a country that is struggling to rebuild itself after nearly 50 years of civil war

A woman walks towards the ruins of a Mameluke fort on the Nile, just above the Dal Cataract on the Egyptian border. The Mamelukes were a group of Turkish and Circassian slaves, bought by Muslim caliphs to serve as soldiers. Having gradually risen to power themselves, they established bases in India, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan, parts of which remained under Mameluke control until 1821


Top left: a Nubian mud-brick house with typical wall decoration; Top right: a schoolgirl studying at a Catholic missionary school in the southern village of Loli, on the White Nile. The first secular school in Sudan was founded in 1907, and later became the first indigenously founded women's university in Africa; Above left: henna, a thick paste prepared from the Lawsonia inermis shrub, is applied through a small hole in the end of a twist of plastic. Dried and fixed in the smoke from a charcoal brazier, the pattern can last for several weeks, in Sudanese culture, as in parts of the Middle-East and India, only married women decorate themselves; Top right: the seasonal painting of Nubian houses is the responsibility of the women, who also choose the designs and colours; Right: two Azande children carry honey through the grass, near Maridi, in southern Sudan. The Azande people, live primarily in southwestern Sudan, the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and southeastern Central African Republic. Now pastoralists, their name--which comes in numerous different variants--means 'the people who possess much land', a reference to their history as conquering warriors


Above: many young Mandari men and boys live away from their villages at cattle camps like this one in the Bahr al-Jebel State, north of Juba. Herders apply ash from cow-dung fires to their bodies and douse their hands and heads in urine to repel insects. The repeated application of cow urine to the hair bleaches it. Because cattle are the primary source of income for the Mandari, their lightened hair has become something of a status symbol; Right: the almost featureless western edge of the Bayud Desert, south of the Third Cataract on the Nile, northern Sudan


Top: burial pyramids at the Royal Necropolis of the ancient Kingdom of Kush, a dynasty that ruled most of northern Sudan and what is now southern Egypt between 800 BC and 250 AD. The tombs at Meroe, near Bejwaria, have been dated to between 300 BC and 300 AD. The burial of monarchs there, rather than in the city of Napata to the north, is thought to have been a significant development in the kingdom's politics, as it represented a break with the priests, who were based in Napata; Above: the Boma Plateau rises above the Nile's floodplain in the southeast, bordering Ethiopia. Old volcanic plugs such as that pictured here dot the landscape. The masses of solidified lava, which once filled the central vent of a volcano, are left standing when the remainder of the cone is removed by weathering and erosion. The plug pictured is called Ngatiloni Telech, or Lady's Walking Stick, by the Murle people who live on the plateau. Historically, the Murle were a nomadic, cattle-herding people who originated in Kenya; however, on the Boma Plateau they have become farmers because the presence of tse-tse flies prevents them from keeping cattle


Top: these women are wearing the tobe, the traditional, brightly coloured wrap-around garment favoured by Sudanese women. Each tobe uses up to 11 metres of cotton fabric and covers the head as well as the body--a reflection of the fact that around 70 per cent of the Sudanese population are Sunni Muslims; Above: in order to return a school to educational use, the government's armed forces removed damaged weaponry from its compound in Juba, southern Sudan. This young man has found his own use for an abandoned tank, spreading out his washing to dry in the sun; Right: cattle returning to a riverside village near Malakal on the White Nile


Top: a village under palms in the riverine lands that border the White Nile; Above: villagers at Um Dalam listen to representatives from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency, explaining how to forestall desertification. Um Dalam is on the edges of the Sahel, a semi-arid region south of the Sahara


Sudan: The Land and the People, with photographs by Michael Freeman and a foreword by Jimmy Carter (Thames & Hudson, 29.95 [pounds sterling]), is out now



How to get there

Although the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January last year, has effectively ended the conflict in Sudan, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to southern Sudan and urges extreme caution elsewhere. In addition, any evidence of visits to Isreal will result in a visa being refused. Info:
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Title Annotation:Michael Freeman on Sudan in his book, 'Sudan: The land and the People'
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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