Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Sailing into Egypt's Past Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Shelley Wachsmann

Does a celebration of Luxor's patron saint echo ancient pharaonic traditions?

Each year, on the fourteenth day of the Islamic month of Shaaban, two weeks prior to the beginning of Ramadan, Egypt's ancient city of Luxor shakes itself awake to celebrate the moulid, the birthday celebration of Sheikh Yusuf Abu el Haggag el Uqsuri, the city's medieval Islamic patron saint. The culmination of the weeklong event is a carnival-like procession in which boats, mounted on wagons, are towed through the streets. Egyptologists believe that this unusual custom is a faint memory of celebrations that date back to the Opet celebrations of pharaonic times.

Shelley Wachsmann is Meadows Associate Professor of Biblical Archaeology at Texas A&M. He would like to thank the Haggagi family, led by Mohammed el Husein el Haggagi and Nagdi el Hussein el Haggagi, for their assistance with this article.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America