Egyptians celebrate ancient festival of Sham El-Nessim

Ahram Online, MENA, Monday 21 Apr 2014

Packed parks and beaches, burnt dolls and spoiled fish mark the ancient Egyptian festival of Sham El-Nessim

Sham El-Nessim
Egyptians in Nile boats on the occasion of Sham El-Nessim (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Millions of Egyptians have marked the national holiday of Sham El-Nessim by visiting parks and coastal cities.

Sham El-Nessim, Arabic for 'inhaling the breeze', is a celebration linked directly to ancient Egypt, and celebrated is by Egyptians of all religions. It always falls the day after Coptic Christian Easter.

In an official visit to check up on security measures set up for the celebrations, Cairo Governor Galal Said visited Al-Fustat Park, took a Nile bus and ended his visit in Al-Andalus Park.

The Egyptian Zoo, located in Giza, witnessed large numbers of visitors with over 70,000 visitors, an official source told Ahram Arabic Website. 

While in Al-Qalyubiya governorate, Ahram Arabic website reported that more than half a million Egyptians visited Qanater Gardens (20 km nort of Cairo), stretching over 200 fedans and overlooking the Nile. Tickets were reduced on the request of the irrigation minister to allow more people to enjoy nature’s beauty. 

In Port Said governorate, 113 fires were reported to the authorities, according to state news agency MENA. Dolls and car tires were torched in celebration of Easter, a tradition in the governorate.

Firefighters extinguished the fires without any injuries. While 1,300 tires were confiscated before they were torched.

Egyptians purchased the traditional Sham El-Nessim meal of salted mullet fish (known as fesikh), onions and eggs.

Police found 160 kilos of spoiled fesikh during at markets in Aswan governorate. While Ismailiya governorate ordered the disposal of 190 kilos of expired fesikh and shrimps and opened a case against the merchants selling them. Another 166 kilos of spoiled fesikh were disposed of by the authorities in Hurghada.

In the Red Sea governorate, private and public beaches have been packed since early Monday, especially in Hurghada city. Police have been reinforced to accommodate the masses, and medical teams and ambulances have been ordered to remain at every beach in case of emergencies.

While Suez governorate - home to the famous Ain Al-Sokhna beaches - has received 250,000 visitors in the past 48 hours, filing up the local 80-km beaches and resorts. Hotel occupancy rates in the area soared to 95 percent, according to Suez governor El-Arabi ElSerwi. 

While in Aswan governorate, thousands celebrated amid tight security to avoid a recurrence of deadly tribal clashes that occurred almost two weeks ago.

Aswan Governor Mostafa Youssry ordered the waiver of entrance fees to 140 public parks.

Youssry issued a high state of alert in anticipation of any emergencies that might arise.

Meanwhile, five suspects from the Bani Helal tribe were arrested on Monday on allegations of engaging in the recent tribal violence, killing members of the Daboudiya tribe, shooting at police officers and torching Daboudiya houses.

Tensions in the Upper Egyptian governorate began between an Arab clan, Bani Helal, and a Nubian tribe, Daboudiya, reportedly over the harassment of girl and offensive graffiti.

The fighting, which lasted for five days, killed 26 and injured 56 others.

The prime minister, government officials and religious figures brokered a one-month truce between the tribes.

In Beni Suef governorate, three students and one worker died while swimming in the Nile. The River Rescue Forces recovered three bodies and are still looking for the fourth victim. 

Tourists have also flown to Egypt to celebrate Easter.

South Sinai witnessed a spike of tourism, led by Lebanese and Jordanians, who headed to Sharm El-Sheikh, with an occupancy rate as high as 65 percent in some hotels.

Ten tourists buses arrived at Qena governorate’s Al-Dandara temple, in addition to hundreds of Egyptians celebrating Easter.

“French, Russian and Chinese tourists have arrived at the temple, walking for six kilometres to view it’s pharaonic symbols which speak of love and motherhood,” temple manager Ayman Hendy told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

On Sunday alone, over 26, 000 tourists have arrived at Egypt's various airports from international destinations to celebrate Easter, with Hurghada having the lion's share of over 15, 560 tourists, Ahram Arabic website reported.
The tourists, who came mostly from Russia, Germany and England, have ignored Euro travel alerts to Egypt. 
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