A giant whirl of people from across Egypt and the world circling the Al-Hussein mosque, square and neighbourhood, is the distinguished mark of one of Cairo’s most special nights.
On the last Tuesday of the Islamic month of Rabi’ Al-Thani, Sufis and Shi’as celebrate in Egypt the memory of the burial of the Prophet Mohamed’s grandson’s head in one of Fatimid Cairo’s squares in 1153.
Outside the mosque, endless and barely moving lines of people, with large numbers of them from Upper Egypt, come to celebrate Mulid Al-Hussein (Al-Hussein Festival). They were trying to enter the mosque, with some looking to enjoy the several little areas selling sweets, restaurants, and lots of cafes, most of them on the sides of the narrow street and alleys just for the occasion.
The celebrations started a week before the last Tuesday of the month, and the last night, often referred to as “the big night”, is usually the night that sees biggest attendance.
Egypt, as a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, has previously seen tensions surrounding Mulid Al-Hussein. This has especially been so, as the Shi’a celebrate the occasion and radical Salafist Islamists have called for the cancelling of celebrations to reduce Shi’a influence, as they claimed.
Be it Shi’a, Sunni or Sufi, Egyptians of all sects and classes were present inside Al-Hussein mosque Tuesday night, as prayers were recited, praising Allah and praying for the Prophet Mohamed and his beloved grandson, at his grave inside the mosque, to intercede for them before God on a glowing night.
All photos by Ahmad Najjar and Mohamed Abu Eeldahab