Bakers and sweet factories in Egypt are working hard to prepare special treats to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet’s birthday this year falls on February 4th as per the lunar Islamic calendar.
During this time of the year, traditional dolls made of sugar are carefully crafted especially to mark Mawlid. Mawlid is the Arabic word for birth, colloquially used as the name for the Prophet’s birthday.
All over the country street carnivals are held, where you can find children enjoying gifts of these brightly decorated sugar-dolls and sweets.
The dolls are a tradition dating back to the Fatimid period (909 - 1171). The origin of the dolls has many interpretations. One interpretation is that soldiers were promised the most beautiful women on earth as a reward for their bravery in war. Another is that the dolls signify beauty, kindness, fertility and youth.
"The traditional sugary doll and horse are being challenged fiercely by plastic dolls. Of course the plastic Chinese doll is popular through the whole year. We see them all the time. But the sugar-doll is only made at that time of the season of celebrating the birth of the Islamic Prophet. Thus it has its appreciation, popularity and joy," said Ali Farag al-Araby, a factory owner.
Sweet factories work throughout the month of January and February to guarantee the supply of sugar dolls. "We start production a month before the celebration. Products that are most popular tend to be the peanut, sesame and roasted chickpea bars and reels. Also the maple stuffed Turkish delights are the most chosen products by customers," said Anas Mohamed, a sweet shop owner.
Adults also get to treat themselves to a variety of different sweet delicacies.
The Prophet's birthday is celebrated as a public holiday in Egypt. However, last year festivities were cancelled due to the uprising against the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.