Today, I went with Becca (the SVP coordinator) and her sister to see Nuba wrestling. The Nuba people live in the Nuba Mountains in the south of the Republic of Sudan (not South Sudan). Wrestling is a very important part of their culture.
We arrived early enough to have proper seats close to the arena. A solitary drummer walked around the arena keeping a steady beat, which he continued throughout the event. There were a lot of contestants, all wearing shorts and t-shirts. According to my guidebook, in the Nuba Mountains the wrestlers would be semi-naked, but dress in Khartoum to comply with Islamic expectations. At the start, they all processed around the arena, before competing against each other. The aim is to knock your opponent to the ground. The wrestlers start very cautiously, circling and dusting themselves with sand from the ground until they see an opportunity to latch onto the other. There was clearly a lot of skill involved so it was quite fascinating to watch. Some of the bouts ended with very dramatic flinging of opponents to the ground, and standing ovations from the audience.
I hadn’t put Nuba wrestling very high in my priority list of ‘things to see’ because I found it hard to imagine enjoying any form of wrestling. How wrong I was.