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Youths in a swing at the mawlid of Sidi Abd al-Rahim al-Qinawi in Qena

Mawlids are not only religious festivities: they are also popular street festivals that offer a wide range of attractions: inexpensive amusements, food, sweers, toys, souvenirs, and many others. For many people this is the most interesting thing about a mawlid. Many Sufis who come to the mawlid primarily for spiritual reasons find the profane festivities superfluous and marginal, but most of them accept their presence as long as they don't break against the moral and the law. Some of them also see them as a way to recruit people. The profane festivities, they argue, attract a lot of people who would not come to a purely religious event. Once at the mawlid, some of them may come to share a glas of tea and a talk in one of the Sufi tents and be drawn towards the mystic path.

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Qina, October MMII, small frame colour negative, scan from c-print
(c) Samuli Schielke