Egyp­tians dote on lanterns to light up Ra­madan

China Daily - - WORLD -

CAIRO — Ahead of the holy Is­lamic month of Ra­madan, Egyp­tians flock to lo­cal mar­kets to pur­chase col­or­ful lanterns, known as fanoos in Ara­bic, for their chil­dren or to use them as or­na­ments for homes and work­places.

For them, buy­ing fanoos is al­most a must as it has been a tra­di­tion for cen­turies.

The lanterns, mostly hand­made, gar­nish the streets and nar­row al­leys of Egyp­tian cities dur­ing Ra­madan, which starts on Thurs­day.

Dur­ing the month, Mus­lims ab­stain from eat­ing, drink­ing, smok­ing and con­duct­ing sex­ual re­la­tions from sun­rise to sun­set.

In Cairo, buy­ing a good lantern is worth a weari­some visit to the over­crowded mar­ket in Sayyida Zainab neigh­bor­hood, the city’s largest lantern bazaar.

De­spite this year’s no­table hike in prices, Egyp­tians of all walks of life were buy­ing the lanterns.

“I’m look­ing for good-qual­ity and cheap lanterns for my four grand­chil­dren,” Reda Mo­hammed, a woman in her late 50s, said as she en­tered a large store.

The fanoos orig­i­nated in Egypt dur­ing the Fa­timid caliphate hun­dreds of years ago, when they served to light dark streets but later be­came tra­di­tional chil­dren’s toys on Ra­madan evenings.

“Ra­madan is al­ways a happy month for old and young . ... Chil­dren feel ex­tremely happy when they tour around the neigh­bor­hood with their lanterns after the If­tar (break­fast) meal,” she said.

Over the past decade, Egyp­tian mer­chants im­ported plas­tic tech­nol­ogy-based lanterns from China.

But the prac­tice has al­most stopped in the past two years due to the dol­lar hike against the Egyp­tian pound, as well as the de­clin­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions for most Egyp­tians.

“Home­made metal and glass lanterns sell well,” said lantern seller Farid Shawki. “Their prices have gone up com­pared to last year, but they are still cheaper than the im­ported ones.”

Lantern mak­ers are al­ways keen to present new styles and shapes ev­ery year to at­tract shop­pers who al­ready have older ones they bought in pre­vi­ous years.

This year, the shape of lan- terns did not change much, but a new style with im­ages of Egypt and Liver­pool soc­cer star Mo­hamed Salah has gone vi­ral this sea­son.

“Salah is an iconic fig­ure in Egypt and most Egyp­tians see him as a na­tional hero . ... This led lantern mak­ers to put his im­ages on the lanterns to sell more,” Shawki said, adding that most of the lanterns he has sold so far were those with Salah’s pho­tos.

At the en­trance of an­other lantern store at the same mar­ket, Manal, a 35-year-old house­wife, bought a large Salah lantern for her home.

“Salah’s fanoos will dou­ble the hap­pi­ness,” she said as she held the lantern. “Salah al­ways makes us happy and hav­ing his pho­tos on a Ra­madan lantern will make the fam­ily much hap­pier.”

AMR AB­DAL­LAH DALSH / REUTERS

Peo­ple walk near tra­di­tional lanterns known as fanoos, with the im­age of Liver­pool’s Egyp­tian soc­cer player Mo­hamed Salah, be­fore Ra­madan in Cairo on Wed­nes­day.

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