MAKKAH: It has been six years since the cannon that stands atop Mount Abu Al-Madafaa in the north of Makkah has been fired to mark the holy month of Ramadan. But its sound still reverberates in the memories of many Makkans, for whom it was a means to tell the times of fasting, morning prayers, and the beginning and end of Ramadan.
For many years, those who lived near the mountain would climb to its peak to see the cannon being fired once Ramadan was announced. Throughout the holy month, shots would be fired to mark the start of iftar, sahoor, and the start of fasting.
In an interview with Arab News when the cannon was still active, Maj. Abdul Mohsin Al-Maimani — a spokesman for Makkah Police, which was responsible for guarding, maintaining and firing the cannon — noted how popular the cannon was with the public.
“When Makkah Police was founded 75 years ago, it was entrusted with the maintenance and care of this cannon. After Eid, the cannon is returned to a special department. A few days before Ramadan, it is sent back to the mountain. The powder is handled by a special team so that no one gets hurt,” he added.
Fahad Al-Harbi, mayor of Ray Zakhir near Mount Abu Al-Madafaa, told Arab News: “The Ramadan cannon withstood technical changes for long decades until its recent retirement. It represents ancient Makkan history. The blast of the cannon, with all its importance and beauty, became the sound of the call to prayer for the residents of Makkah.”
The cannon has stood on Mount Abu Al-Madafaa for at least a century, and ‘the people of Makkah connected their love for the holy month’ to both the cannon and the mountain.
Dr. Fawaz, Al-Dahas
For many years, he noted, the cannon was “the only means to alert people that it was time to break fast” and “added a distinct character to the holy month” that is still “treasured in people’s memory.”
According to Dr. Fawaz Al-Dahas, director of the Center of Makkah History, the cannon has stood on Mount Abu Al-Madafaa for at least a century, and “the people of Makkah connected their love for the holy month” to both the cannon and the mountain.
“In the past, it was impossible to hear the voice of the Grand Mosque’s muezzins, so the cannon performed the task on their behalf. It remained a tradition held dearly,” said Al-Dahas. But modern technology — most notably the speakers affixed to the minarets of Makkah’s Grand Mosque — eventually made the cannon obsolete.
Cannon firing during Ramadan has been traced back as far as the 15th century and the era of the Mamluks.