Last Update 7:35
Saturday, 19 January 2019

Makan brings tradition back to Cairo

Makan, the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art, buzzes with the grassroots sound of the Nile Delta, featuring little seen stars

Farah Montasser, Friday 19 Aug 2011
Gameela Shiha
Views: 2939
Views: 2939

The Fawanees Festival at Makan, the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art, featured a traditional grassroots evening with mawal singing and baladi dance.

The performance brought together seven male and three female artists from the Nile Delta whose work reflects the daily life of the peasants. Love and wedding songs framed the mawal, the traditional narrative ballad comprising the gypsy performance traditions of the Nile Delta. They played the rababa, a two-string spike fiddle made from half a coconut shell covered with fish skin, a bow, and horse hair; the kawala, an end-blown, oblique flute with six holes; and the arghoul, Egypt’s double clarinet with two pipes of unequal length (the second pipe serves as a drone and can be lengthened by adding pieces), which requires circular breathing to produce uninterrupted sound and which is the only instrument extant from ancient Egypt.

This was one of the busiest evenings in the festival, with both floors of the small space packed and audience members impinging on the performer’s space on the floor. In his traditional fellahin attire of a heavy galabeya or tunic, Gamal El Touhami started, as per tradition, with a chant in praise of the Prophet Muhammad and members of his household, followed by a mawal on friendship, loyalty and trust. “Eli Ishtarani Mabi’ush,” he sang: he who has bought me, I will not sell. The popular wisdom imparted advised forgiveness, love, and respect as the secrets of happiness.

The guest of honour Gamalat Shiha walked in to frenzied applause: one of the leading female mawal singers who has gained popularity in Cairo, Shiha exuded earthbound dignity in her own galabeya. Her voice clear and powerful, in mawal after mawal she mocked Egyptian society and politics, speaking of her journeys across Canada and the USA. She engaged the audience, who clapped and laughed as well as singing along. Two young companions supplied extra energy with ululations.   

The Fawanees Festival continues across Cairo's historical sites, including Wikalat Al Ghouri in Islamic Cairo, until the end of August.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.