At the mawlid (1)

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General view of the mawlid of Sidi Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, a mediaeval mystic and founder of the Shadhiliya brotherhood, in Humaythara (Eastern desert).

In Egypt, the word mawlid (pronounced mulid in colloquial Arabic) means an annual festival for the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad or a saint (known as a friend of God; in Islam). Mawlid means literally birthday but usually it is celebrated on the date of the death or on a date of convenience, for example after the harvest or during the summer holidays. Mawlids are celebrated around the tombs of saints. Usually they are in the centres of cities and villages but some, like the mawlid of Aboe al-Hasan al-Shadhili in this picture, takes place in the middle of the desert and people travel hundreds of kilometres to turn the desert into a veritable city for one week every year.

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Humaythara (Eastern desert), January MMV, middle format colour negative, scan from c-print
(c) Samuli Schielke