Make your own Ramadan lanterns

Sarah Elhosary , Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

Many people now prefer to make their own Ramadan lanterns instead of purchasing them, adding a personal touch to this traditional accompaniment of the holy month, reports Sarah Elhosary

Ramadan lanterns
Ramadan lanterns


Every Ramadan, people decorate their homes by buying lanterns. However, with the rising prices of decorations and lanterns this year, many people are considering designing and making their own lanterns while fulfilling their crafts interests at the same time.

Maha Mounir, managing director of the Art Studio in Cairo, said that “decorating the home with lanterns during Ramadan is a cherished family tradition that I am enthusiastic about passing on to my children and the wider community. As a result, I have designed a lantern-decorating workshop in which both mothers and children can participate.”

“To promote the workshop, I shared a video of my daughter and myself decorating a lantern. The idea resonated with many people, and many expressed an interest in attending.”

Sharing her experience, Heba Abdel-Baset, one of the participating mothers at the workshop, said that “I chose to participate in order to spend quality time with my daughter. I learned how to decorate the lantern with decoupage, but I didn’t feel like it was just a learning workshop. Instead, it was a joyful opportunity when I went with my friends and our children and had a good time filled with laughter.”

Laila, a five-year-old participant at the workshop, said that “I enjoyed the workshop very much and I hope to repeat it again. All my friends attended, and I was able to decorate my lantern beautifully. I even learned how to glue napkins onto it and decorate it without leaving any wasted space. Then, I took it home with me.”

 “When we make the lanterns ourselves, we give them a part of our spirit and personality, as the maker can control the details of the lantern and choose the colours and shapes freely, making it align with our taste,” Mounir said. 

“Making the lantern instead of buying it allows us to create a shape that fits better with our home decor. In addition, handicraft work reveals the individual uniqueness of each person, who can then create a unique piece of art. There is no repetition in handmade pieces, even if we use the same materials, tools, and even colours, which vary in intensity between one person’s painting technique and another’s.”

Art workshops offer a chance to enjoy various crafts for up to two hours, including pottery modelling and accessory making. “Instead of traditional outings, groups of friends come to the workshops to enjoy getting to know and to practise a type of craft or art, in addition to making an artistic product with their own hands at the end of the workshop,” Mounir said.

Longer courses are needed to learn the work involved in painting on pottery, fabric, denim, making accessories, resin, wax, acrylics, decoupage, collage, and tie-dye, she said, in addition to learning various colouring techniques using pastels, oil, and watercolours.

Since last year, 15 days before Ramadan, Mounir and her friend Amira Abdel-Salam have held Ramadan-themed artistic workshops, including decorating trays with crescent-shaped drawings that depict the moon on the first day of Ramadan and workshops for decorating lanterns.

Mounir prepares wooden lanterns, as well as the colours and paper napkins that workshop participants will use to adorn the lanterns using the decoupage technique. 

“Before Ramadan, I developed the workshop’s concept and the design I would be working on with the participants and then chose a unique idea to promote the workshop and attract attendees. After receiving requests to attend, I purchased the materials based on the number of participants,” she explained.

“Choosing the type of lantern for the workshop is one of the most challenging steps,” Mounir said. “It’s important to choose a suitable size because larger sizes are more expensive. As a result, I choose a size that makes the workshop and lantern affordable to the participants, even after accounting for the cost of the tools and materials used for the decorations.”

 “I also choose a lantern with a simple, hollow form so that the participants can easily paint and decorate it. If I purchased a complex lantern form or one with larger surfaces, it would be more challenging to decorate. I also ensure that the material is wood so that it is robust and long-lasting,” she added.

Instead of wood, Yasmeen Nassar, founder of the group People of Art, selects pottery to provide artistic workshops on painting and decoration. 

“During the sessions, we offer participants pottery lanterns and the equipment needed to paint them. It takes about two hours to decorate a lantern, after which participants take the lantern they painted home. Both adults and children paint the lantern, with each choosing colours and motifs that suit their preferences and then carrying them out with the assistance of a trainer who teaches them drawing techniques.”

“When I was a child, my father used to wake us up to have Sohour, the pre-fasting meal Muslims have right before sunrise, with a lantern as a gift,” Nassar said. “Since childhood, the lantern has been a special symbol of the beginning of Ramadan for me as a result, and I wanted to share the same experience with others, so I launched a workshop for drawing and colouring pottery lanterns in our art studio.”

“The workshops include various practices such as abstract painting, mosaic making, and other arts. We offer many workshops in our studio, where we host about 120 participants inside and outside,” she adds.

Dalia Ahmed, the owner of the Noury Craft Art Studio in Cairo, uses weaving and threads for her lantern-making workshops. “The idea of the lantern workshops came from my love of crochet, and I wanted to incorporate crochet into home decorations while also having each person make their own lantern,” she said.

“In addition to lanterns, our programmes cover crochet, embroidery, and macramé, among other handicrafts.”

Ahead of the workshop, arts instructor Hayam Saeed prepares the materials for the lanterns and Ramadan crescent shapes, saying that “we design Islamic-shaped lanterns using macramé and cotton threads. The size varies from 25 cm to 95 cm, and the larger the lantern, the longer it takes. The small size takes about four to five hours for the workshop, and the large size takes three sessions of work, each lasting about four hours.”

“It took four sessions to complete two lanterns in the workshop I attended,” said Safaa, one of the participants at a workshop for making lanterns using macramé. “I learned macramé and chose to join a workshop to make lanterns with it because making a lantern involves many techniques that I wanted to learn. Now, I am capable of making an entire lantern on my own,” she said.

“After finishing the workshop, I brought the lantern home and lit it with a simple LED light.”

“During the workshops, participants learn handicrafts, but the most important thing is that we provide a supportive community for them to get to know each other and get rid of life’s pressures and negative energy through the art of handicrafts,” Ahmed concluded.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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