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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Book Review: On Coptic moulids in Egypt

Priest Dawood Makram, in his study of Coptic moulids, provides a rich analysis of one of the primary forms of folk culture and belief

Amira Noshokaty , Thursday 20 Aug 2020
Coptic moulids in Egypt
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The Coptic moulids: A field study in folk beliefs, by Priest Dawood Makram, (2018, the General Egyptian Book Organisation)

“It took me 20 years to conduct the study," Priest Dawood Makram explained to Ahram Online. Having attained his PhD in the philosophy of folk arts, Makram believes “the life of this nation is summed up in its philosophy of folk arts.” Nothing reflects this life better than the Coptic moulids, or carnivals of faith, of Egypt. Makram depicts three of the biggest moulids to explore.

In his study, Makram delves into the rich culture of Coptic moulids via the moulid of El-Adra (Virgin Mary) in Gabal Al-Teir, El-Menya, that of Saint Barsoum El-Erian in Helwan, and the moulid of the Virgin Mary in Daqahliya governorate.

Across more than 100 pages, Makram examines the fine line between the ancient Egyptian origins of the moulids and their very special relationship with saints and what they represent, and moulids nowadays that have similar traits to Islamic ones.

“Ancient Egyptians knew moulids since the New Kingdom, and Egyptians were known, according to Herodotus, as a leading nation in festivities and celebrations,” reads the study.

The book explains that in ancient Egypt each town had its own deity for protection, which is a notion that continues to propagate in folk religions and beliefs today.

The book delves in to the colourful world of Coptic moulids, explaining that though Coptic is now taken as another name for Christian, the word Coptic in origin means all Egyptians.

Sainthood in linguistic form means pure and blessed. The last saint acknowledged by the Coptic Church was Saint Habib Gerges, only a few years ago.

The author also highlights the religious, social and folk connotations of the moulids, bringing out the origins of many traditions including tattoo art.

For those interested in the philosophy of folk arts, Makram’s book is a treat on this rich and multidimensional topic that is rarely viewed in its proper context.

The book includes an annex of photographs documenting the social aspects of Coptic moulids. 

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