Traitor: Sudanese Cinnamon Tea Recipe

Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Starring: Don Cheadle, Guy Pierce, Said Taghmaoui, Archie Panjabi, Aly Khan,
(PG-13, 113 min.)

"If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live." Martin Luther King, Jr.

This taut thriller has plenty of intrigue and action, but something a bit foreign to the genre – an almost philosophical exploration of the two sides on the War on Terror. And yes, it is co-written by Steve Martin, that “wild and crazy guy” who proves that his comic genius is founded upon a true cerebral nature.

Don Cheadle plays Samir, a devout Muslim who has seen his father killed by a car bomb in his native Sudan. We next see him selling arms in Yemen, kind of an equal opportunity munitions dealer in it for the money rather than the cause. When he is captured by the FBI, agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) offers him freedom for a little information on his buyers and their connections, but it is a no sell. Instead, Samir takes his chances on prison in Yemen, where he goes against a violent prison gang to give food to someone they want to starve.

His courage wins over Omar (Said Taghmaoui), who lets Samir in on his well laid escape plans. Before long, Samir is part of a cell in Madrid, where he blows up the U.S. Embassy with his expertly made and planted explosives triggered by remote control. His face falls when he hears of the eight deaths. “Not enough,” he tells his fellow cell members.

Meanwhile, his face has turned up on the surveillance tape near the explosion and Agent Clayton remembers him from Yemin. It turns out that Samir’s explosives training is from his time as an Army Special forces agent, where he helped train the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. He has not surfaced since his time there and Carter (Jeff Daniels), a CIA contractor, speculates he might have gone over to other side.

Actually, according to Agent Clayton there isn’t much “might have” involved, as he chases Samir across the globe from Madrid to Toronto to the housing projects of Chicago in a game of cat and mouse, with Samir always a few steps ahead of his pursuers.

Where the film earns its stripes, however, is in our Muslim protagonist’s well-informed religious devotion. He refuses wine from his fat cat Toronto terrorist liaison, who explains that the Koran allows a few deceptions to achieve a higher purpose. Thus the pricey western suits, the clean-shaven faces, and the pricey restaurants are merely the need to fit in unnoticed in the foreign landscape. Samir counters that these deceits are only accepted in life and death matters.

But, of course, life and death is exactly what they are dealing with, except that Fareed (Aly Khan) in his Western luxury is far removed from the actual blood and mayhem. His role is to orchestrate and speculate on terrorism as theatre, theatre performed for an audience, the American public. “Since their government is of the people, the people should therefore answer for its sins,” he opines as he dusts off his silken trousers and sips his white wine. Reluctantly, Saimir raises his glass as well.

The religious views of Agent Clayton, the son and grandson of Southern Baptist preachers, are also treated with respect, something of an anomaly for Hollywood, and possibly one reason this excellent film has received only tepid praise. Clayton does not see all Muslims through the same glass, equating their fanatical believers to the cross burning so called Christians his father long fought.

This is a courageous film, one that doesn’t shy away from showing Muslin terrorists as a truly existential threat to our way of life, something Hollywood has generally failed to do. The closest we have come is United 93 and Munich, but in both cases the filmmakers have humanized the terrorists more than those opposing them. Traitor puts a very human face on each side in this struggle, and it is this very balance that perhaps frustrates each side.

A must see.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Almost any important event or discussion in Africa is sorted out over tea. Let’s enjoy a special tea from Samir’s native Sudan, one flavored with pungent cinnamon sticks and plenty of sugar.

And forget china teacups. This tea is sipped from hand painted glasses nesting in carved metal holders. The visuals are almost as good as the tea itself.

With the nights (at least) getting a bit cooler, this is just the thing to end a busy day.

Enjoy, perhaps with these other African delicacies:

Ethiopian Cheese Dip and Injera Bread

Zimbabwe Bean Salad

Oysters Mombasa

Moroccan Herbed Fish

Sudanese Cinnamon Tea


  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 4 tea English tea bags or 4 teaspoon of loose English tea 
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (approx 1/2-inch)
  • 4 lumps of sugar, plus extra sugar


Place 4 cups of boiling water in a tea pot with the tea & allow to brew for a few minutes then stir.

Place 1 cinnamon stick & 1 sugar lump in a tea cup & pour the tea slowly over them.

Serve with an additional bowl of sugar lumps for guests to add if they like. (You may also add a cinnamon stick to the teapot while the tea is brewing for a stronger cinnamon flavor).

Recipe Source: