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Celebrating Mawlids: Sufi Traditions in Egypt’s Humaithara Valley

September 27, 2015

Text and Photos by Ahmed Fouad Bakr Over the past month, nearly half a million people have arrived at the Humaithara Valley that lies 140 kilometers southwest of Marsa Alam on the western shore of the Red Sea. They are all there to celebrate the Mawlid, or birth, of Sufi Sheikh Abul Hassan Al-Shazli, by standing on the Humaithara Mountain at the same time Sunni pilgrims stand on Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia. Sufi devotees consider the Humaithara Mountain to be a “shrine” for the late Sufi Sheikh and the Qibla for their prayers, and insist on visiting the site despite the long and difficult journey from Cairo, which lies 1000 kilometers away. Abul Hassan Al-Shazli, founder of the Shazli Sufi order and a major figure in Sufism, was originally named Abul Hassan Ali Bin Abdullah Al-Shazli Al-Maghrabi. He was born in 571 AH (1196 CE) and moved to Shadhila village in Tunisia, where he gained Sufi jurisprudence and was elevated to a high understanding of Sufi thought. He later moved to Alexandria, Egypt, where he married and had children, and gained disciples. His teachings spread through Egypt thereafter and…

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