Mesaharati: An ancient career fights extinction in digital age

Historian Abdelmajid Abdul Aziz says mesaharati first appeared in Egypt during the Fatimid dynasty. (Social media plhoto)
Updated 06 May 2019
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Mesaharati: An ancient career fights extinction in digital age

  • A sweet and honored Ramadan tradition of the good-old days

CAIRO: A mesaharati is a person who wakes others up before dawn in order to eat before their fast during Ramadan.

The job has been around for generations, and despite the technological revolution, it is an honored tradition that continues to this day.

The Al-Jabarti family, for instance — from which the great historian Abdul Rahman Al-Jabarti is descended — is famous for having members perform the task.

Its origins, though, are disputed. Historian Abdelmajid Abdul Aziz said mesaharati first appeared in Egypt during the Fatimid dynasty, arguably the most decorated period for Ramadan celebrations.

According to 15th century Egyptian historian Mohammed bin Iyas, the profession began in the days of the Caliph Bi’amr Allah, who commanded citizens to sleep immediately after the Taraweeh prayer. 

He would then send out his soldiers in the early hours, knocking on doors and shouting before dawn prayers began, to wake people for suhoor.

Abdul Aziz said that the Egyptian Governor Ibn Ishaq was the first to individually perform the task professionally in 832 AH (1432 CE). He would walk from the city of Fustat to the mosque at Amr ibn Al-Aas, and call out “O worshipers of Allah, eat. Suhoor is a blessing.”

That tradition has continued until modern times, lasting almost 600 years. 

The mesaharati's "baza" drum.

But now, it is facing extinction as fewer people are drawn to take up the role, and technology supplants it. ‘Am Magdy, a 59-year-old mesaharati, told Arab News that his work begins from the last day of the month of Shaaban all the way until after Eid Al-Fitr. 

He has performed the task annually for more than 40 years, having inherited the role from his father, and knows the names of all his neighbors so as to call each one personally before dawn.

Magdy said that he thought of leaving the profession, though, because of the spread of television and the extension of programs into the early hours of the morning, but his neighbors and children asked him to continue.

Sometimes he is accompanied by a group of children as he roams the streets, echoing phrases that have been recalled over centuries such as: “Wake up sleeping person, there is only one God, it is time for suhoor fasting people.”

He also rhythmically bangs a drum called a “baza,” which according to him is loud enough to wake up a whole neighborhood. After Eid Al-Fitr prayers, he then passes through the areas he walks one last time to collect money for his efforts throughout Ramadan.

But he is unsure whether his sons will inherit the task as he did. “My children are not interested in the profession. I used to take them with me when they were young, and they would be so happy to see their friends responding to our calls. But over time they lost this joy and became preoccupied with their work, and some even advised me to stop practicing it myself,” he said.

Decoder

What's a mesaharati?

A person who wakes others up before dawn to eat before their fast during Ramadan is called a mesaharati. It is an honored tradition that continues to this day, lasting almost 600 years, despite the technological revolution. A mesaharati roams the streets, echoing phrases that have been recalled over centuries such as: “Wake up sleeping person, there is only one God, it is time for suhoor fasting people.” He also rhythmically bangs a drum called a “baza.”


Iranian official in surprise visit to Lebanon

Updated 18 July 2019
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Iranian official in surprise visit to Lebanon

  • Some of the threats made by the Zionist enemy are not in favor of the region’s security, Abdollahian says

BEIRUT: “Lebanon must be kept out of all regional crises,” said Iran’s Shoura Council assistant speaker for international affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, during a surprise visit to Beirut on Wednesday.

“We say at the top of our voice that Iran and its allies will not allow the Zionist entity and the US to damage the region’s security.”

Following his meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Abdollahian said that Tehran “is convinced that the security of Lebanon is the security of the region and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Abdollahian added that “some of the threats made by the Zionist enemy are not in favor of the region’s security.”

He described his talks with Berri as “good and constructive.”

“We will not allow Israel, US to interfere with regional security.”

Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Iran’s Shoura Council official

Abdollahian said: “We have come today to reaffirm that Iran fully supports the people, army, resistance and government of Lebanon, and we look forward to developing relations between our two countries until they reach the highest levels.”

He said he believes that the statements of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are for “domestic consumption,” accusing him of “making some moves in the region that are not in his favor.”

Netanyahu responded to a message from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday by threatening Hezbollah during Israel’s Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said: “Let me be clear that if Hezbollah dares to commit an act of stupidity and attack Israel, we will deal a crushing military blow on Lebanon. But unlike Nasrallah, I do not intend to detail our plans. It would be enough to recall that, for years, Nasrallah dug terror tunnels, and we demolished them within a few days.”