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In Photos: Egypt’s Unceremonious Easter and Bittersweet Sham Ennessim Amid COVID-19 Lockdown

April 21, 2020

As Egypt and the world battle the unrelenting spread of the novel coronavirus, social ties and community bonds are becoming increasingly strained by lockdowns, curfews, social distancing and other other public health and safety regulations.

Last week, Coptic Christians celebrated Easter Sunday and the Holy Week amid nationwide shutdowns and a ban on religious congregation in churches, mosques and other places of worship to slow the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

Ra’ef, an attendant of the Samaan El Kharaz Church, marks Palm Sunday alone. (Photo courtesy of Roger Anis)

Under normal circumstances, churches across the country would be brimming with worshippers throughout the week for Baskha prayers, but this year, for the first time in living memory, these ancient traditions weren’t observed. Likewise, the spirit of the holidays was absent among Catholic Egyptians, who observed the Holy Week and Easter Sunday two weeks ago.

“It is difficult for our hearts to be in Holy Thursday mass and we can’t do what Jesus did by washing the [feet] of his disciples because of [coronavirus] … But instead of washing the [feet], I will ask you to cleanse our hearts all … Our prayers on the water will be blessed to be healing for our souls and our bodies,” Bishop Krikor Coussa of the Armenian Catholic Church in Alexandria reportedly said in a live Facebook broadcast.

Bishop Krikor broadcasts Holy Thursday service live (photo courtesy of Roger Anis)

Similarly, Sham Ennessim, the Egyptian holiday marking the beginning of spring, went by unceremoniously, as citizens across the country complied with the partial lockdown imposed by the state’s public health agencies.

Sham Ennessim is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in Egypt, marked by festive outdoor activities in public parks, but in the governorate of Mahalla, the skyline was dotted with kites as quarantined residents took to their rooftops to celebrate the long-awaited advent of spring.

Egyptians in the governorate of Mahalla mark the advent of spring by flying kites (photo courtesy of Roger Anis)

Renowned Egyptian photojournalist Roger Anis documented Egypt’s bittersweet Sham Ennessim, its unceremonious Easter, and the somber Holy Week that preceded them.

Photos courtesy of Roger Anis who also contributed to the reporting in this article. 

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