Season of Migration to the North

Season of Migration to the North Glossary

Agricultural Project Committee

A committee of villagers that regulates agriculture in Wad Hamid. Mahjoub is its president, and Mustafa Sa’eed serves on it.


A type of liquor made from dates, popular among the village people.


A nomadic, desert-dwelling group of tribes. Arab in descent, they live all over North Africa, Sudan, and the Arabian peninsula.


Arabic for “daughter of.” Instead of surnames, the women of Wad Hamid use “bint” along with their father’s first name. “Bint Majzoub,” then, simply means “daughter of Majzoub;” we never learn her first name.


A special inn that has a large courtyard to host caravans.

circumcision ceremony

In many parts of Africa and the Middle East, boys are circumcised at the onset of puberty, and not in infancy like in the West. The ceremony is a rite of passage that shows the boy is becoming a man.


Short prayers associated with a particular day or season, which are said before the main prayer. Used in both Islamic and Christian traditions.


Reception room in houses, used to entertain male guests.


A title of courtesy, similar to “sir.” Even older people use it to refer to the narrator, because he has a high-level government job.


A large water jug.


Glazed ceramic pottery.

female circumcision

The practice of cutting or removing a woman’s clitoris during childhood, for religious or cultural reasons. It remains prevalent in parts of Africa and Asia, and was even more common when Salih wrote Season of Migration to the North in 1966. The practice is illegal and extremely controversial in most Western countries, and many Western NGOs now focus on eradicating it abroad.


The pilgrimage to Mecca, required of all Muslims who are healthy and can afford to go.


A tree whose wood is often used to construct houses in Sudan.


A long, collarless garment that people in Islamic countries wear over their clothes.


Term used in the U.K. and the Commonwealth for a truck.


A high-level civil servant.


The chief of a tribe or village.


The part of Islamic law that regulates daily life.


A dry riverbed.