Cairo’s Ramadan cannon: A tradition that spread through the Arab world

Workers build a mosque in the New Administrative Capital, east of Cairo. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 May 2020

Cairo’s Ramadan cannon: A tradition that spread through the Arab world

  • According to ‘The Month of Ramadan in Islam in the Pre-Islamic Era’ by Ahmed El-Manzalawy, the idea of a Ramadan cannon began in Egypt, but there are conflicting stories its origins

CAIRO: Before Maghreb prayers every day during Ramadan, most Cairo residents hear a cannon going off, signaling the breaking of the fast. They call it the Ramadan cannon and it is a tradition now followed in many other Islamic countries.

Since the dawn of Islam, and when the Prophet’s companion Bilal ibn Rabah would offer the adhan for iftar and sahoor, the cannon has alerted the Muslim public when to start eating. According to “The Month of Ramadan in Islam in the Pre-Islamic Era” by Ahmed El-Manzalawy, the idea of a Ramadan cannon began in Egypt. However, there are conflicting stories as to its origins.

One version says the Ramadan cannon began during the Burji Mamluk era in the 15th century, during the reign of Sultan Kho Shoqdum. The sultan wanted to test one of his cannons around sunset on the first day of Ramadan and the people mistakenly believed he had deliberately planned the event to mark iftar. They headed to his palace in the citadel and thanked him. So, he decided to fire the cannon throughout the holy month.

The second story claims the tradition started during the reign of Mohammed Ali Pasha, founder of modern Egypt in 1805, when he wanted to test a cannon he had received from Germany on the first day of Ramadan. The response from people was so positive, that he continued to fire the cannon throughout the month.

Yet another story suggests that the tradition started during the reign of Khedive Ismail, when a cannon went off accidentally at sunset on the first day of Ramadan as maintenance work was being carried out on it. The khedive’s daughter, Princess Fatma Ismail, reportedly ordered that the cannon continue to be fired at sunset each day. As a result, it was called Hajja Fatma Cannon.

During Khedive Ismail’s reign the cannon was moved to Moqattam mountain so that its sound would travel further. People would line the streets to watch the cannon be hauled up the mountain in a chariot with huge wheels. It would return to the citadel on the first day of Eid.

In the middle of the 19th century, during the reign of Abbas Helmy I, there were reportedly two cannon shots for iftar in Cairo — the first from the citadel and the second from Abbas Pasha palace in the suburb of Abbaseya.

Historian Abdel Meguid Abdel Aziz said the Ramadan cannon was silenced in 1987 when the Ministry of Antiquities warned that the blasts were damaging the walls of the citadel and other monuments in the area. However, Interior Minister Ahmed Roshdy ordered that the daily cannon shots recommence from the rooftop of the citadel throughout Ramadan and during Eid holidays.

Abdel Aziz added that, until last year, there were six cannons in Cairo: Two at the citadel, two in Abbaseya, one in Heliopolis and one in Helwan. All are fired simultaneously so that most of Cairo’s residents can hear. Last year, another cannon was added near Cairo University.


Emma Roberts shows off Lebanese label as she reveals why she blocked her mother on Instagram

Updated 21 October 2020

Emma Roberts shows off Lebanese label as she reveals why she blocked her mother on Instagram

DUBAI: US actress Emma Roberts made an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” this week, where she opened up about her new film, pregnancy and how she wound up in an Instagram feud with her mother.

For the occasion, Roberts, who is expecting her first child with her partner Garrett Hedlund, donned a blush, floral Ganni dress paired with shoes by Lebanese footwear designer Andrea Wazen.

The Beirut-based designer launched her eponymous, celebrity-approved label in 2013 following stints with some of the most renowned footwear designers in the world, including Christian Louboutin.

She opted for the Denver Lavender pumps, a pair of mesh sandals with an adjustable buckle strap.

Wazen’s impressive list of celebrity clientele includes Hailey Bieber, Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Jenner.

Roberts video chatted in from Los Angeles, where she revealed that she temporarily blocked her mother, Kelly Cunningham, on social media after she unwittingly “spilled the beans” about her daughter’s pregnancy. 

“I was keeping my pregnancy pretty low key but unfortunately my mother has Instagram. Which, mothers and Instagram, it’s a bad combination," Roberts said on the show.

She added, “She definitely spilled the beans.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Me...and my two favorite guys

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The 29-year-old explained that her mother doesn’t own a computer and had a flip phone until about three years ago when she bought her an iPhone, calling it “the worst thing I ever did.”

Once she got an iPhone, Cunningham made an Instagram account where she unintentionally spilled the beans on her daughter’s pregnancy by thanking fans who were congratulating her on becoming a grandmother.

“It was a disaster and I found it all out on a plane so I couldn’t get to her, I couldn’t call her or attack her,” Roberts said. “I could just iMessage with her and DM her and ask her to please stop.”

When the “American Horror Story” actress was finally able to get a hold of her mother, Cunningham told her that she had responded to fans because she thought Roberts had already confirmed her pregnancy, but it was actually just a tabloid story. Roberts added that they “kind of laughed” and “kind of got into a fight” over the incident, which led her to temporarily block her mom on social media.

“It’s been an Instagram war with my mother that I never saw coming,” mused Roberts. “It’s a good story to tell the baby.”