Embarking on the journey of Faith: The vibrant Hajj traditions in Egypt

Amira Noshokaty , Tuesday 20 Jun 2023

The hajj pilgrimage holds a profound place in the hearts of Egyptians, representing far more than a mere religious obligation.

Photo copyright is reserved to Lenhert& Landrock - Dr. Edward Lambelet


For Egyptians, the hajj is a significant milestone in life, as obtaining the Hajj title symbolizes a new beginning after repenting for past sins and striving to act with greater humility. It also carries social status due to its religious significance.

In the rural areas of Egypt, the joyous hajj celebrations commence well in advance of the pilgrimage itself. Women from the village gather to sing traditional  heritage songs, recounting the inspiring stories of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail. These heartfelt melodies honor the pilgrim embarking on the sacred journey and bid them a farewell filled with blessings.

While pilgrims set forth on their holy trip, their loved ones back home in Egypt engage in a delightful tradition— traditional Hajj Graffiti to decorate their houses. This cheerful ritual involves village artists decorating the front wall of the pilgrim's home with intricate drawings of the modes of transportation used during their journey, including camels, boats, airplanes, and the holy shrine. Some rare graffiti even depicts the tale of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail.

The return of the pilgrim is greeted with jubilation and excitement. White flags adorn the streets, symbolizing the pilgrim's safe arrival.

The return of the pilgrim home safely is greeted with jubilation and white flags, while the pilgrim brings back cherished souvenirs—a tangible connection to the holy sites: Rosaries, white head caps, and water from the sacred well of Zamzam .

On a national scale, Egypt's engagement with the hajj rituals begins long before the actual pilgrimage season. For decades, Egypt has played a significant role in providing a yearly cover for the holy shrine of Mecca. This woven cloth, was made from Egypt's finest materials, and hand-stitched with verses from the holy Quran by top calligraphers and by specialized Keswa artists.

A procession is usually organized where the new cloth was carried on the back of a specially decorated camel that would carry it all the way to Mecca. Hajj songs would accompany this procession that used to roam the Saladin Square in Al Qalaa district, on its way to Bab El-Wadaa, (The gate of Farewell) where the procession heads off to Mecca.

The journey to Mecca is full of captivating tales, and travelling by land on the historic Hajj route is filled with stories of hope, miracles, and the mausoleums of those who passed away along the way.

Several Orientalists were able to participate in and document these journeys, providing us with a glimpse of the pilgrimage.

After completing the pilgrimage, the camel that set foot in the holy Hijaz land is expected to work for the rest of its life.

Happy Adha Feast!


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