Our Guest Editor Anoushka Silva explores wedding beauty rituals fit for the modern bride (part II): fragrant Sudan

Photo credit: Alek Wek by Sølve Sundsbø for i-D Magazine


'My incredible journey discovering Indian wedding beauty rituals made me realise I wasn't quite done!! I wasn’t ready to stop discovering all these intricate bridal beauty techniques. I decided to take a look at even more dedicated wedding beauty rituals and came across some practices undertaken in parts of Sudan which opened my eyes.


In Sudan, a ritual called Dukhan, meaning ‘smoke’ is undertaken by brides to be and married women. This ritual, a form of incense bathing, goes back thousands of years to the ancient Kingdoms of Meroe and Nubia. The tradition involves a woman sitting in a sauna like pit of perfumed acaia wood and sandalwood. Charcoal is lit within the hole to produce the scented smoke. Rugs known as Birish made from woven palm tree branches, with a central opening, are then placed over the hole. The woman then strips naked and her body is thoroughly rubbed with Karkar which are scented oils generally made from animal fat, orange peel, and clove essences. The woman sits over the hole, permitting the rising smoke to fumigate her body. She covers herself with a Shamla (a thick local woollen blanket), until the heat becomes literally too hot to handle.

Photo credit: Ala Kheir


The Dukhan leaves a strong scent of the wood lingering on the body for days. It also makes a woman’s skin glow as well as softening it. The practice also helps to detoxify the skin as well as tighten it and even out and intensify the colour. The Dukhan is also used after giving birth to tighten loose skin.

Dukhan is usually followed by Dilka, which translated means scented massage. The wood from the Dukhan is mixed with a type of whole-wheat powder called Durum flour to make a body scrub known as ‘dilka’. The Dilka gets wrapped in a cloth and remains in the Dukhan for two to three days to bake. People add to the Dilka the skin of oranges, fragrant woods such as tahlih wood (Acacia seyal – shittah tree), shaff (Terminalia brownie), and sandalwood, as well as powdered mahlab, qurunful (Cloves), dufr (operculum), turmus (lupin/lupini beans) and sometimes zabad (Cuttle-fish bone). The Dilka body scrub is then used to clean the body resulting in a glistening skin. A warm shower signals the end of the process.


This is simply the tip of the iceberg as there are many more wedding beauty rituals undertaken by other countries and cultures often with subtle variations on these rituals. It sure is exciting stuff which we can all learn from and be inspired to incorporate parts to our beauty routines despite our busy lives.

I know I have been truly inspired and now have a few more tips and tricks even for everyday use. I know I can go to supermarket and look for those turmus beans and if I don’t use them for a body scrub, I can use them in a salad!! Win win!!"



 Photo credit: Grace Bol by Max von Gumppenberg & Patrick Bienert for Vogue Germany May 2014






Great read Anoushka! It felt like I was given a sneak peek! If this isn’t a series! You should make it one!

Kayon November 06, 2015

This was such a great read. More of these please.

Zahira September 25, 2015

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