How Egypt introduced Mother’s Day to the Arab world

Shounaz Meky - Al Arabiya English
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As Arabs mark Mother’s Day on Tuesday, it is worth mentioning that Egypt shares a unique history with the celebration of motherhood throughout years. In fact, it is believed that an Egyptian journalist first introduced the phenomenon into the Arab world.

The Arab Mother’s Day is commemorated on March 21 every year across the Gulf, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan and Libya.

Reports on the day’s history suggest that pioneering Egyptian journalist Ali Amin was the first to call on Arabs to assign a day in which mothers are to be “treated like queens.”

“Why don’t we agree on day of the year called ‘Mother’s Day’ and make it a national holiday in our countries, on which children offer their mothers gifts and send them letters of thanks,” Amin wrote, at his column published in Al Akbar el-Youm newspaper.

“Why don’t we encourage children on this day to treat their mothers like queens, so they don’t let them do any work and instead, perform the house chores on her behalf. But which day of the year should we call ‘Mother’s day’?”

His idea gained popularity, and readers of his column began suggesting dates to mark the occasion. Accordingly, March 21 was selected as a day to celebrate motherhood across the nation, as it signals the beginning of spring.

It was celebrated for the first time in 1956 during the era of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

But it has been suggested that the idea of honoring mothers dates back to ancient Egyptians, who were among the early civilizations to celebrate motherhood.

It is said that as per the pharaonic tradition, an annual festival was held to honor goddess Isis, who represented the ideal mother and wife in Egyptian mythology.

Some sculptures depicting Isis showed her breastfeeding her son, Horus.

Ancient Greeks also held an annual springtime festival dedicated to maternal goddesses, and ancient Romans celebrated a spring festival for a mother goddess called Cybele.

In modern days, the practice originated in Britain in the 1600s as part of “Mothering Sunday,” originally a day for Christians to visit their ‘mother church’.

Years later, Mother’s Day became celebrated in America by 1911, and was announced an official holiday on May 8, 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.

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