In Sudan, Ramadan is not complete without "helo-murr", which means "bittersweet", a Ramadan drink made with dried corn and spices.In the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, women laboriously prepare the drink that will then be served on almost every table in the country.
"It's a tradition we inherited from our grandmothers and mothers. The "helo-murr" is a must-have drink. Without it, our table feels empty. So, we must have it in any possible way. Those who can't make it buy it ready-made, because its preparation is complicated. We call our friends, our neighbours, our sisters, the day one of us wants to prepare it, she calls her friends and sisters and they all make themselves available for the whole day to help her. They all get together, like us today, and each one leaves with her share. Even those who don't know how to make it, they help with the preparation or the iftar [fast breaking meal at dusk during Ramadan, ed]", said Sudanese homemaker,Wissal Abdel Ghany.
The corn is harvested and left to dry in the sun before being ground and mixed with spices such as fenugreek, cumin or even hibiscus -- Sudan's other essential Ramadan beverage.This mixture is then soaked in sugar and water for several days.The resulting crepe-like layer is then peeled away and stored, ready to be soaked in the final step to create the beloved drink.
"I don't think the original recipe included all these ingredients. Surely, a lot of ingredients were added over the years until it reached the actual recipe and maybe the next generations will add other ingredients to it. But the "helo-murr" will always be the same, with its taste, its smell. All it takes is a whiff of the scent coming out of a home to know that Ramadan is here. Ramadan brings a special atmosphere, especially with the "helo-murr", concluded the Sudanese homemaker.Served as cold as possible, the drink is one of many ways that fasting Sudanese cool off, a significant challenge in one of the world's hottest countries.