Millions of Egyptians are celebrating the Sham El-Nessim spring festival on Monday, marking the occasion with traditional seafood dishes and visits to public parks.
Celebrated since 2700 BC by all Egyptians regardless of their religion, beliefs, and social status, the name Sham El-Nessim (Inhaling the breeze) is derived from the Coptic language, which is, in turn, derived from the ancient Egyptian language.
Sham El-Nessim was originally pronounced Tshom Ni Sime, with tshom meaning “gardens” and ni sime meaning “meadows”.
The holiday always falls on the day after Easter Sunday in the Coptic Christian calendar.
Egyptians typically devour the traditional Sham El-Nessim meal of pickled mullet fish, known as fesikh, which is marinated in vinegar for one year prior to consumption.
People pack picnics of colored eggs and green onions to accompany the fesikh, sardins and salted herring, as they occupy public gardens from dawn to dusk.
Holiday makers eat salted fish and lettuce, which is considered traditional food during Sham el-Nessim, or "smelling the breeze," in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, April 17, 2017. The holiday signifies the arrival of Spring, a uniquely Egyptian tradition practiced since the days of the Pharaohs. (AP)
However, if prepared incorrectly, fesikh may cause food poisoning, with dozens of cases of poisoning reported every year on the day.
In a statement on Sunday, Egypt’s health ministry urged citizens to buy their fesikh from known and trusted vendors, to check expiration dates, and not to buy from street sellers or attempt to make it at home.
The ministry said it had destroyed 27 tonnes of spoiled fesikh nationwide, along with other types of fish consumed during the holiday.
Police have issued summons against several stores selling expired fish.
Meanwhile, Giza Governor Mohamed El-Daly told state-run news agency MENA that the Giza Zoo will open its gates to public for free on Monday.
Other popular destinations, such as the Al-Orman Park, have been equipped to receive large numbers of visitors on Monday, the governor added.