Celebration Of Sayeda Zeinab

Collection with 9 media items created by U.S. Editor

04 Jun 2013 09:00

Cairo, Egypt As traditional songs intermingled with prayers blared over loudspeakers, thousands of Cairenes took to the streets the evening of June 4th to celebrate the birth of Sayeda Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohamed.

Cairo, Egypt As traditional songs intermingled with prayers blared over loudspeakers, thousands of Cairenes took to the streets the evening of June 4th to celebrate the birth of Sayeda Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohamed.

While Cairo is the site for Sunni pilgrimage, Shi'a Muslims believe that her tomb is located in Syrian town of Set Zaynab. This difference in belief accurately captures the dogmatic divide between the two sects.

The tomb of Sayeda Zeinab is nestled in the heart of Cairo and boasts a stunning mosque enveloping the holy site. The celebration, which draws people from all walks of life in Cairo, is a decadent mix of carnival and piety. Sellers hawk plastic children’s toys beside merry-go-rounds, while the devoted flow in and out of the mosque.

Typical of Sufi mysticism, the men will twirl for as long as they can, with many succumbing to the inevitable dizziness that follows. The devout writhe and spin to the music, eyes often glossed over as they transcend the music in an attempt to make a spiritual connection.

Exhausted from both the stifling heat and the journey, hundreds of the pious Muslims lay asleep on the carpets inside the mosque. Many have taken the traditional pilgrimage of 7 days from villages in Upper Egypt to visit the tomb of Sayeda Zeinab. Beside the tomb as the hundreds clamour to touch it, perfumes are sprayed in the air and camera phones waved about in an attempt to photograph the holy site. The room holding the tomb is packed with people and sweat drips from the brows of every individual. Much of the practices during the celebration of Sayeda Zeinab’s birthday, like the perfumes and the goods for sale, are more cultural traditions than Islamic prescriptions.

The tens of thousands that flock to the street may seem standard to Cairo's image (forged through conflict and civil unrest) but the sense of revelry and celebration is a breath of fresh air to the stagnant summer heat of Egypt's political situation.

Celebration Sayeda Zeinab Prophet Mohamed Granddaughter Mosque Pilgrimage Prayer Tomb Children Dance Music Religion Arts & Culture Mena

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (1 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

A child tries to take a photo of the tomb of Sayed Zeinab as his father holds him above the crowds of people filing into the room.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (2 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

Exhausted from both the stifling heat and the journey, hundreds of the pious Muslims lay asleep on the carpets inside the mosque. Many have taken the traditional pilgrimage of 7 days from villages in Upper Egypt to visit the tomb of Sayeda Zeinab.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (3 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

Inside the Sayed Zeinab mosque, thousands make the final leg of the trek to tomb of the Prophet Mohamed’s granddaughter.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (4 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

An estimated 15,000 people were on the street and entering the mosque, overwhelming the capacity of the building’s entrances and narrow passageways.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (5 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

Typically seen as a necessary evil by most Egyptians, at the Sayed Zeinab celebration, the demeanor of the police changes dramatically as they pose for photos, laugh and chat with people in the street.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (6 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

The celebration isn’t just religious in nature. It’s also a chance for families to shop, play games and socialize.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (7 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

The miniature carnival out front of the mosque is a large draw for families, giving children an opportunity to ride swings and play games.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (8 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

An onlooker watches men twirl to the beat of the music. The Sufi style of dancing involves twisting and turning in every direction, becoming a contorted blur.

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Celebration of Sayeda Zeinab (9 of 9)
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
04 Jun 2013

Hundreds gather outside the Sayeda Zeinab mosque celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed's granddaughter. The constant flow of people often creates a gridlock, and to fill moments of immobility, music starts up and dancing quickly follows.