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Sunday, 08 December 2019

Fasting Ramadan in Upper Egypt: Copper drum plays cannon

In the heart of Upper Egypt, a 100-year-old drum beats at the same two times on every day of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan to alert Muslims to stop eating or eat up.

Mahmoud El-Dossoki, Tuesday 23 Jun 2015
drum
Copper drummer Abdu El-Naquib (Photo: Ahram)
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In the heart of Upper Egypt, a 100-year-old drum beats at the same two times on every day of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan to alert Muslims to stop eating or eat up.

The 50 cm piece of copper, crowned with camel leather - the best sustainable kind of leather - is the legacy that Abdu El-Naquib inherited from his grandparents.

"Before sunset and dawn, the drum beats in the villages of Qena for an hour to remind people to hold or break their fast," explained El-Naquib, who grew up and lives in a small village in southern Egypt, to Ahram Online.

The copper drum is the Upper Egyptian version of Ramadan Cannon, which has been going off for decades to tell fasters they can eat and drink.

The drum, which is still performed in rural villages by men who inherited the trade from parents and grandparents, has been part of Ramadan rituals all over Egypt for a long time.

However, back in the day, the drummers travelled on camels that roamed the narrow streets to send alarms for those who fast.

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During the reign of Khedive Ismail in the 1870's, while soldiers were cleaning up a cannon, one bullet accidently went off around sunset. When the public mistook it for a new Ramadan state ritual meant to remind them of sunset prayers and the time to break their fast, Hajja Fatemah, the khedive's daughter, decided to make it a habit.

From that day onwards, the Ramadan Cannon was heard in Cairo seconds before sunseton every day of Ramadan.  

The copper drum tradition started off in rural Upper Egypt as a replacement for the famous Ramadan Cannon which did not exist in remote area.

Nowadays, the copper drum also beats to rejoice the Prophet Mohamed's moulid, as well as the numerous Saints' moulids. The drum march is repeated for 12 successive days as a sign of festivity.

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