Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments decided on Tuesday to close Al-Hussein Mosque in Old Cairo till Thursday hours ahead of the religious Ashoura celebrations to avoid any possible tensions between Shia and Salafists.
"Sectarian religious practices will not be allowed on Ashoura or any other day," a statement by the ministry said on Tuesday, warning that sectarian rallies are banned under the law.
Shia Muslims commemorate on Ashoura the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Al-Hussein, whose decapitated head is believed to be buried at the Al-Hussein Mosque.
In the past few years, Egyptian authorities have closed Al-Hussein Mosque on the day of Ashoura for fear of sectarian tensions.
There are no official figures conerning the number of Shia in Egypt.
Ashoura, the 10th day of the Islamic calendar, is a festival for the general Muslim community who celebrate a number of religious events that, although unrelated, coincide on the same day.
The Ministry of Religious Endowments runs mosques in Egypt in accordance with Sunni doctrine and does not recognise Shia mosques or rituals. Salafists, who are ultra-conservative Sunnis, reject the Shia denomination and consider it a heresy.
In June 2013, four Egyptian Shias, including influential Sheikh Hassan Shehata, were killed by an angry mob in a Giza village following anti-Shia incitement by Salafist preachers.