State control

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Fence preventing people from entering the central square at the mawlid of Sidi Abd ar-Rahim al-Qinawi in Qina

The state has an ambiguous relationship to mawlids. On the one hand, they are not a base of opposition and not a danger to the state, and thence tolerated. On the other hand, as popular street festivals they are always to some extent ungovernable and uncontrollable, something the authoritarian government of Egypt is very sensitive about. This is why in the past ten years, there have been large restructuring measures, labelled as reform, at the central places where mawlids take place, with the goal of increasing state control and restricting the movement of the people by building fences and prohibiting tents from the central area of festivity.

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