Other than the decorations of the streets, traditional sweets, and Islamic songs, “Al-Moulid El-Nabawy” (the birth of Prophet Mohammed) is known for another tradition that is not widely known as others: that of Sufi marches.
The marches usually begin from the famous Sufi mosques heading to Al-Hussein Mosque, where the grandson of Prophet Mohammed is buried. Hundreds of participants sing Islamic songs in praise of the Prophet. Participants of all ages repeat the “Dhikr” – short phrases or prayers that are repeatedly recited about God, the Prophet, and Islam.
This year, the march started from Al-Ga’afary Mosque, one of the main Sufi mosques in Kerdasa, Giza, and continued four hours until they reached their destination. During the march, songs about Prophet Mohammed were sung at with rapid continuous drumming to keep the rhythm of the songs. Coloured signs with “Love word for God and Prophet Mohammed” were held up and women expressed their happiness with little dances, while Halawet Al-Moulid, the traditional sweets of Al-Mouled, were distributed to attendees.
Sufism is an Islamic mystical tradition and in Egypt there are a number of famous “Turuq” (Sufi paths). The best known in Cairo are the Al-Rifa’ya and Al-Hamdiya Al-Shazliya, and the most popular in Alexandria is the Al-Naqshabandiya.
Paths are usually developed by a renowned sheikhs. Each path has its own members, who passionately follow the orders of the founder. In larger marches that combine members from many paths, each member is usually known from the colour of their clothes and sometimes the musical instruments they carry.
Photos by Ahmed Hendawy and Asmaa Gamal