Wednesday, 21 March 2012

El Moulid

The mosques of Egypt were decorated with a festive cob web of light bulbs, 

colorful racks covering the sides of sweet shops and colorful candies every where,  numerous sugar sculptures of knights on horses and dolls in colorful paper garments.
T'was the night Egypt celebrated "Moulid Al Nabi" the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. 

The word "Moulid" is driven from the word “Mawlid” (related to the Arabic word for birth) is a festival that occurs several times a year in Cairo to celebrate the birthday of important historical figures in Islam, as well as Sufi saints.

Early last month, thousands of Egyptians filled the streets of Islamic Cairo for the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. 

Crowds of people- men , women and children congregate to watch the world go by- the men in white jellabias, dervishes in green and women and children in their best clothes together make the scene bright and colorful.

Different religious sects erect tents with fairy lights, tinsels and flags where their followers can sit and listen to the sufi chanting and watch the dervishes as they get carried away swaying and moving to the songs of praise.

The streets and alleys around every mosque turns into amusement parks of curiosities... 

 where primitive Ferris-wheels, carousels and swings are still powered by man's strength.

Salesmen spread their ways on the ground- prayers beads, religious books, inflatable plastic toys and balloons.  

Stalls selling the traditional Moulid sweets made of sesame seed, coconut, candy with peanut brittle, chickpeas brittle and Turkish delight. 
The sugar rush that marks this festival goes back to the Fatimid era. Moulids have long been interwoven in ancient Egyptian history. As Mcpherson puts it in his master-piece "The Moulids of Egypt', it was the Fatimid, who ruled Egypt during the 10th to 12th century and adopted the Moulid festivities and gave them legitimacy. Aiming to make their new capital a protectorate of Islamic sanctuaries, the Fatimids celebrated the Moulids, with special emphasis on those related to the Prophet Mohammed and his descendants, for the Fatimids claim to be the Prophet's descendants through his daughter Fatima.
 These festivals that are affiliated with the birthdays of Sufi sheikhs or saints have always embodied secular and religious traits. Among the secular aspects are parades, candy, street carnivals and numerous sugar figurines that include

sugar knights on horses for boys..

 and sugar dolls for girls.

... speaking of  sugar, there's an ivory figure that's made of sugar announcing it's presence on the blankness of my sketchbook, in proud stillness she stand, with dreams of sugar knights and colorful lights and many colorful paper garments and fans...
She has been there for  quite a while and in due time she'll tell you her tale.

Meanwhile I'll leave you with this a video of the 60's musical puppet performance "The Big Night" referring to El Moulid Night. The amazing puppets are the work of Nagy Shaker, an Egyptian artist whom I long admired.  The iconic performance is ultimately the most famous Egyptian puppet performance ever made, it illuminates the folkloric side of El Moulid celebrations in Egypt, and Like El Moulid itself, this performance has became insuperable part of the Egyptian culture conveying all the chaotic joy, magic and curiosities of El Moulid celebrations in Egypt.  

Many happy returns!