By Emad al-Azrak,
Ahmed Shafiq CAIRO (Xinhua) -- Commemorating the
birthday of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad has a special taste is
Egypt as Muslims flock to buy special candies and sweets.
The special sweets have been a major
feature of Egyptian celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday ever
since the Fatimid dynasty launched the tradition in 973 of the
Prophet Mohamed’s birthday is observed
by Sunni Muslims on the 12th of Rabi’ Al-Awwal, the
third month in the Islamic lunar calendar, or on the 17th
of the same month by Shiite Muslims.
In Egypt, it falls this year on
Friday, December 1st.
Welcoming the occasion, Egyptians
decorate streets and homes with colorful lamps and silk cloths
and set up tents for Sufi chants and praise the Muslims prophet.
Rich people hold large free banquets
for the poor, while thousands gather in mosques for prayers,
reciting Quran (Muslims’ Holy Book).
As the anniversary gets closer, shops
and streets across Egypt get crowded with distinctive sweets,
with customers wondering around to buy the feast’s candies.
Bab al-Bahr Street in Cairo is
considered one of the most important and most specialized
streets in selling and making this type of candies.
Nowadays, the street is crowded with
thousands of Egyptian seeking to get high quality and low-priced
“There is a wide turnout on various
types of candy,” Mohammed Ramadan, owner of a candy shop in
Bab al-Bahr Street told Xinhua.
“The most popular varieties this year
are the beans, sesame and chickpeas candies since their
prices are affordable.”
He added that his shop introduces new
varieties every year to attract customers. “I want to satisfy
all tastes and levels... This season I also have hazelnut,
cashew nuts, pistachios and other items.”
He pointed out that the high prices
have had a significant impact on sales rates, compared to last
year or previous years.
“The turnout has not changed but the
quantities purchased are much less than in previous years,”
he complained as his eyes rolled in search of customers.
Ramadan noted that the high prices of
sweets came as a result of the rise in prices of raw materials,
pointing out that this rise is not limited to candies.
During Islam’s early days, the
Prophet’s birthday, or Mawlid al-Nabi, wasn’t celebrated.
However, it is currently an official
holiday in 47 Muslim countries, spanning from the Middle Eastern
to Africa and Malaysia.
Still, the celebrations in Egypt are
the largest in the Middle East with Sufi Muslims the biggest
devotees of this Holy day.
Some Muslim sects, however, do not
observe the Mawlid al-Nabi occasion, such as the Salafis and
Wahabis, believing that it must not be celebrated since the
Prophet did not celebrate his own birthday during his lifetime.
Not far away from Ramadan’s shop,
Mohsen Abu Habbaba, another candy seller, was busy arranging his
shop front with his best goods to attract more shoppers.
“I’m keen to provide a variety of
different candies to suit all tastes and levels,” he said.
The man added that the price of one
kilo of candies starts from 40 Egyptian pounds (1 U.S.
dollars=17.70 pounds), while the price of a kilo of jams starts
from 65 pounds.
“This year’s turnout is modest
compared to last year,” Abu Habbaba told Xinhua. “Some of
those who used to buy large quantities to distribute to the
poor reduced their request.”
Prices of the festivity’s candies vary
according to the geographical area, income and shops. Price of
one kilo at shops ranges from 40 to 680 pounds.
“The quality of sweets this year very
good, but prices are extremely high,” said 60-year-old Abdel
Nasser Abdullah while buying some candies with his
“In recent years, I used to buy some
five to seven kg of candies, but this year I will not buy
more than three to four kg due to high prices,” Abdullah
Egypt, the most populous Arab country,
has been suffering economic recession due to political
instability and relevant security challenges following two
uprisings that toppled two heads of state since 2011.
The turmoil led to a decline in the
country’s foreign currency reserves, foreign investments,
tourism revenues and others.
Egypt’s current leadership led by
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is working hard to attract
foreign investments despite its ongoing anti-terror war that
killed hundreds of policemen, soldiers and civilians over the
past few years.
Besides floating its local currency’s
exchange rate to face dollar shortage, Egypt started last year a
strict three-year economic reform program including austerity
measures, fuel subsidy cuts and tax increase.
The program is encouraged by a
12-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund.