Well it's that time of the year again; Ramadan! The ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calender. (The word Hijri comes from the Arabic word Hijra or migration, as the Islamic calender counts years from the Hijra-when the Prophet Mohamed left persecution in Mecca for Medina.) In Egypt one of the most obvious signs that the Holy month of fasting and piety is about to begin, apart from worse-than-normal traffic, is the appearance of the 'fanoos' or the Ramadan lantern.
The origins of the fanoos isn't exactly clear some think it is an evolution of the use of candles in certain Ancient Egyptian religious ceremonies which was adopted by Coptic Christians and then by Muslims. The story I've heard most often is that the use of the fanoos during Ramadan was popularized during the Fatamid period when the Chaliphe ordered the streets of Cairo be lit at night by lanterns.
Traditionally fawanees are made of tin and coloured glass (see pic above) by artisans all over the country, often using recycled scrap metal. Unfortunately recent years have seen an influx of cheap, mass-produced plastic lanterns from China. These often bear very little resemblance to the traditional fanoos, can play music (either traditional Egyptian Ramadan folk songs or the latest hits) and are completely lacking the soul and calender of the traditional models.
The aforementioned Ramadan folk songs are another sign of the month, this first one is traditionally associated with the fanoos. Entitled "Wahawey ya Wahawey" it celebrates both Ramadan and the fanoos.
This second is a called "Ahlan Ramadan" or "Welcome Ramadan"
So, Ramadan Kareem to you all!!
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