Shadia Abdu Rabo, Sudan National Museum
In November, clearing out a store in the expedition house at Amara West, we came across many fragments of traditional beds, or angareeb, made of wood, leather and rope. We have repaired some of these, to use in our lounge area, but also in some of the bedrooms.
These beds have a very long history in Sudan, going back to the ancient Kerma culture, where the dead were placed on low beds inside graves.
In the cemetery at Amara West, despite the actions of both robbers and termites, there is clear evidence that some of the burials featured similar beds. In some tombs, there is evidence for both beds of this type and Egyptian coffins, reflecting a mixture of different cultural traditions in the late second millennium BC.
But the form of the bed survived through historical, political and religious changes.
In a fifth century AD painting in the church at Faras, now in the Sudan National Museum, the Virgin Mary is shown upon a bed, while in the late nineteenth century, the wife of the ruling Mahdi owned a lavish example of an angareeb.
The beds follow people from birth to death: childbirth often takes place on such angareeb; circumcision rituals are performed; beds are used in Koranic khalwa-school, are adorned for wedding ceremonies, and are a feature of funeral processions.
The shape has not changed radically, and today one can visit craftsmen in the market to see the beams of acacia, mahogany or date palm being cut and joined (now with wire and metal nails), before the bed is strung – often with nylon string not rope.