|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
9 - 15 July 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
The celebrations marking the birth of the Prophet on Monday are very different to those I remember from my youth. As a child I recall how the celebrations would continue for several days and the first day of the celebrations, I can safely say, was the most joyful of any feast.
These celebrations took place on the eastern outskirts of Abbasiya, on a large tract of land. When it was not the time of the feast, the land became an impromptu football pitch, on which we would play. As I grew older, I would go at dusk with a book of verse and read as the sun was setting.
During the Moulid, though, this often empty piece of land throbbed with life. Tents were pitched, each belonging to a different ministry, public organisation or one of the Sufi orders. Verses in praise of the Prophet were sung in the tents, and as children we would go from tent to tent, marvelling at the ceremonies and speeches.
It was in one of these tents, belonging to a Sufi sect, that I listened to Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, whose father belonged to the order. He was leading a circle of dhikr, with a group reiterating the name of Allah late into the night. At the end of the evening, however, Abdel-Wahab sang his famous song, "I love to see you every day".
The culmination of the celebrations came on the last night, when the skies over Abbasiya were lit with fireworks. As children we would imagine that the fireworks represented our fortune and when one failed to burst whichever child had pinned his hopes on the dud was sorely disappointed.
Once the celebrations were over, the tents would be dismantled and the land would appear desolate. Today, the land contains high-rise blocks.
Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.