The magical lantern, the symbolic icon of the holy month

Added on May 13, 2018

Here comes the holy month of Ramadan, a month that represents one of the main rituals for Muslims all around the world, when Muslims start practicing complete fasting from food, beverages and smoking from breaking of dawn till sunset.

Egyptians are accompanying the unique religious, moral and spiritual nature charteristics of the month, with their fame adding a festive nature celebrating the event.

One of the most iconic features and rich cultural story of the holy month in Egypt is the Ramadan lantern “fanous Ramadan in Arabic”

It’s more than popular to find the streets, houses, bazaars and offices illuminated and decorated with hung colorful lanterns creating an exceptional magical atmosphere, a beautiful harmony between lights and colors.

But how did the tradition begin?

In the year 362 AH – 972 AD, During the Fatimid dynasty reign over Egypt, Caliphate Al-Muiizz li-Din Allah arrived to the outskirts of Cairo on the 15th of Ramadan, to take it as the capital of his country.

The military commander at that time, named Gawhar al-Siqilli asked for city residents to hold candles to ensure the path would be lit for the Caliphate when arriving.

 People and children celebrated their march with lanterns shielding the candles, ensuring flames won’t go out, and that came to the admiration of the newly crowned caliphate.

Other story refers to the Caliphate al-Hakim bi Amr-Allah (996 AD-1021 AD) who ordered – for safety reasons- women not to leave their houses at night alone, unless escorted by a boy walking a head of them carrying a lantern.

He also ordered lanterns to be hung at entrances of the neighborhoods, mosques, streets and forced penalties on those who didn’t comply.

Since that time and up to this moment children are still swinging with their lanterns in Ramadan, chanting their rhyme song in colloquial Egyptian Arabic “wahawi ya wahwai”, song words were driven from ancient Egyptian meaning “greetings to the moon”.

Nowadays lanterns are different in shapes, sizes and colors, you will find in the market the old style handcrafted colored glass and tin lanterns, an amazing mix between the Egyptian folklore and the Islamic design.

Many stores are now displaying the modern designed plastic made lanterns coming in a toy shaped popular children figures, and having recorded songs of traditional Ramadan songs.