Moulid of Sayyed Ahmed Al-Badawi, Egypt

At the end of the cotton harvest in late October, one of Egypt's most important religious festivals is held at Tanta, in the Nile Delta.

Photo © iStock/Mekhamer

Location

Tanta, Egypt

Dates

At the end of the cotton harvest in late October.

Description

One of Egypt’s most important moulids (religious festivals), held at Tanta in the Nile Delta, honours a Moroccan Sufi who fought the Crusaders in the 13th century. Some two million pilgrims arrive from across the Arab world to pay their respects at the main mosque, which holds al-Badawi’s tomb.

In the resulting chaos, snake charmers induce cobras out of baskets, barbers perform mass circumcisions and hawkers flog Tartours (cone-shaped hats) and fanous (lanterns). Children are presented at the shrine to be blessed and the sick to be cured. It’s like a funfare with religious intensity thrown in.

While munching some of the popular sugar-coated nuts called ‘hubb el Azziz’ (‘seeds of the Beloved Prophet’), you might pass a hypnotic Sufi zikr ceremony taking place in a colourful tent. Hoping to achieve oneness with god by chanting and clapping their way into a trance, participants stand in swaying lines with their rhythmic hand-claps gradually increasing in intensity. As the ceremony climaxes, they suddenly come to, sweating and blinking.

Level of Participation

2 – wander among snake charmers and entranced Sufis.

Essentials

Women should be escorted by men and valuables kept in a safe place. If you don’t fancy bedding down in the Sufi tent city, do a day-trip from Cairo, 90km south.

Other Local Attractions

Egypt’s largest camel market is held at Birqash, 35km northwest of Cairo.

More Info: Visit Egypt.Travel for more information.

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