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Merkub: Traditional Sudanese footwear defies new brands

The traditional "merkub" shoe, which has been handmade from different animal skins for centuries in Sudan and is one of the symbols of the country   -  
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Darfur Sudan

The production of leather accessories and clothing is common throughout Africa. People in Sudan, in the east of the continent, also produce shoes called merkub from cow, goat, sheep, snake and tiger skins.

Indicator of status and wealth

Merkub, which dates back centuries, is also considered an indicator of social status and wealth.

While the possession of tiger and leopard skin shoes represents the wealthy stratum, snake skin called Asale, crocodile, cow, sheep and goat skins are classified from expensive to cheap.

Considered one of the oldest and most deeply rooted crafts in Sudan, merkub is deemed one of the important elements that reflect Sudanese identity, have been the subject of songs and represent the national dress of Sudan, such as cellabiye (male dress), tob (female dress) and imme (turban).

However, in recent years, interest in traditional leather footwear is waning due to the invasion of manufactured goods in the market and their high prices.

Popular gifts for tourists and Sudanese traveling abroad include merkubs made of calfskin and snakeskin. Velvet merkubs with tiger and leopard designs are also popular with locals and tourists.

An integral part of Sudanese culture

Merkubs, in addition to being light, comfortable and durable, are especially preferred by Sudanese who want to keep their traditions and culture alive.

It is reported that tiger skin merkubs have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

In the Darfur region in the west of the country, which is considered the center of merkub production, thousands of people make their living from this trade.

Sudanese wear merkubs with their traditional clothes, cellabiye and imme, especially on festivals and special days. The bride and groom are dressed in merkub with tiger skin patterns to distinguish themselves from others.

This ancient tradition is kept alive in nearly 70 workshops in the leather goods bazaar in the Abu Zayd district of Umdurman city.

The master of Merkub, Mohammed Hamid, in a statement to AA correspondent, said he left behind 45 years in the profession with the Libyan bazaar, where he came after the bazaars of Umdurman and Dubai.