By: Hanya Riad
We’re living in a world that is constantly evolving. Everything around is always changing, but traditions and culture are the only things that don’t change around us. The degree to which people accept them or embrace them does change, but the traditions themselves are timeless and have a dear place in our hearts. As Somerest Maugham once said, “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” We have the power to keep our traditions and develop ourselves at the same time, we should not keep ourselves imprisoned by our traditions, but we should never forget them. And what says tradition more than Ramadan?
Lanterns always represent Ramadan to anyone; they are the visual representation of this holly month. The Fawanees parade usually starts a few days before Ramadan and last till after the Eid. The Fanous is an Egyptian tradition, which appeared around the Fatimid period, but until today, there is no actual confirmed story about the appearance of the Ramadan lanterns. The most famous story is that The Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim wanted to add lights in the streets of Cairo during Ramadan, so he asked the Sheikhs of Mosques to hang lanterns that could be illuminated by candles, and Egyptians never abandoned this tradition. It kept evolving with technology until today; there is now hundreds of types of Fanous in metal, plastic or wood that function by batteries and lamps instead of candles.
Even if we don’t really hear it anymore, it is still “THE” sign of Ramadan. When my parents or grandparents hear the Maghreb call to prayer they still say ” Yalla el Madfa3 Darab” so we can all start eating.
People say the tradition began in 1460 during Ramadan. The story says that Mamluk Sultan Al-zaher received a cannon as a gift from a German friend. The sultan’s soldiers were testing the cannon so they fired it, and it was coinciding exactly with the Maghreb Call to prayer. The habitants thought that this was a way to alert them that it was time to break the fast and that made the Sultan more popular at the time. So they decided that the cannon would be fired everyday throughout the holly month to mark the end of the fast everyday. The story says that this cannon used to be fired from Cairo’s Citatel until 1859. This Egyptian tradition was then expended to many Islamic countries.
The idea of Fawazeer was developed into TV programs in 1961. There was anenigma proverb paragraph and participants were invited to send the correct answer.The idea of presenting the Fawazeer in a more dramatic waywas offered in 1967 by director Ahmed Salem and the “Trio stage lights” (Samir Ghanem and George Sedhom and Eldeif Ahmed) and was then performed by the actress Nelly since 1975 and until 1981, and at this time it was directed by Fahmi Abdul Hamid.
In 1982 invented Fahmi Abdul Hameed made-up the personality of Fatouta, which was presented by Samir Ghanem until 1984.
The following year, Fawazir Alf Leila w Leila, were presented by the artist Sharihan, which continued until 1988.The Fawazeer were then performed by many famous artists: Sabrin ,Hala Fouad , Sherine Reda, Medhat Saleh … and In 1994 the most famous ones were fawazir of “Keis w Leila” performed by Mohammed el Helw and Sherine Wagdy and “Hagat w Mohtagat” by Sherihan. Recently there were a few trials to make modern Fawazeer in order to keep the tradition going, like the ones by the Lebanese singer Myriam Fares.
Bakkar the Egyptian cartoon series, aired in Ramadan each year since the late 1990s. Bakkar and his goat Rashida were a huge part of our lives growing up. Admit it, we all wished for a goat when we were younger. The moral messages that seems so naïve to us now, the environmental suggestions,the Nubian atmosphere and the theme song by Mohammed Mounir, all of these are and will remain the great memories of our childhood!
Bakar was the first Egyptian or Arab cartoon character. It has been watched and supported in other Arab countries like United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Tunisia. Mona Abul-Nasr, the cartoon director actually won 4 international prizes and 14 national first prizes for her work. Her motivation at the beginning was based on her own opinion, she said during an interview “Even if it is easier to import foreign series, the content and the characters do not reflect our cultural reality and this could forge a weak generation with poor language and uncertain identity” And sadly, this is exactly what is happening to our coming generations.
Al Mesaharaty is one of the most rooted traditions of Ramadan. It’s the night caller who wakes up Muslims before dawn so they can eat something before the beginning of the fast, walking around the streets in a certain district calling on people or playing a small drum.The first Mesaharaty was Bilal Ibn Rabah. He was the first Muezzin in Islam, chosen by Prophet Mohamed. Bilal Ibn Rabah was known for having a beautiful voice and called the people to go pray. In Ramadan he used to call on people to refrain from eating, so this is why he is considered as the first Mesaharaty. In Egypt, the tradition started in the Hjri year 238. Antaba Bin Ishaq, was the ruler of the country at the time, and used to call on people from AmrIbn Al-Aas mosque, reminding them to eat Sehour.
Over the years Mesaharaty developed and are always adapting themselves to the popular trends and folklore of the moment. They even used some work of famous musicians like Sayed Mekkawy. The job of Mesaharaty is usually inherited from father to son, you will often see the Mesaharaty with his little boy, until one day the boy is walking by the same streets by himself.