The mūlid of Tanta in time of Covid-19

A mendicant wearing a mask.


The mūlid of Tanta, in the Delta of Egypt, is one of the most remarkable religious festival of the country and expression of the Egyptian popular Islam. This commemoration, dedicated to the XIII C. sufi saint Sīdī Sayyid al-Badawy, used to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visiting the maqām (shrine) of his saint, which is located in the Great Mosque of Tanta. Known with the epithet of Shaikh al-‘Arabī, Sayyid Aḥmad al-Badawy, is believed to cure the male impotency and woman infertility, and he is inspiration for one of the main sufi schools of Egypt: the ṭarīqa Aḥmadiyya.

Since Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020, all mawālid (pl. of mūlid) celebrations have been temporarily banned by the national authorities. Also in October 2021, the Great Mosque of Tanta has been closed even during prayer time and zikr practice was prohibited in public spaces. The Sigār area, where pilgrims and sufi brotherhoods used to settle with tends and celebrate the festival starting from two weeks before the mūlid time, turned into a crop and sugar cane field.

However, in a context of hard economic and social conditions, devotees to Sayyid al-Badawy came to the mûlid in order to look for madad (Holy assistance). Few hundreds of pilgrims flocked to the streets of Tanta, thus full of shuyūkh (religious clerics) reading the fātiha to devotees. Mendicants and vendors were selling the “hummus (chickpeas) of the Badawy”, toys for children and the traditional sweets of the mūlid al-Nābī – the Birth of the Prophet festivity – that in 2021 occurred just a week later. People spent the nights in occasional and makeshift shelters in small secondary streets and building basements, or receiving hospitality from local people.

Kawkab Tawfik


Devotes praying behind fences in front of the Great Mosque of Tanta.

Pilgrims dancing and singing in the Layla al-kabīra, the last night of the mūlid period.

Some pilgrims and a sufi devotees encamping and cooking in the small alleys around the Great Mosque of Tanta.

Some pilgrims and a sufi devotees encamping and cooking in the small alleys around the Great Mosque of Tanta.

A woman selling the hummus (chickpeas) of the mūlid.


The ‘arusa al-mūlid, the traditional sugar doll of the mūlid festivities.

OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
CEDEJ (28 février 2022). The mūlid of Tanta in time of Covid-19. Les Carnets du CEDEJ. Consulté le 24 juillet 2024 à l’adresse

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