Egypt // The Nile Valley //

Festivals in Luxor

Visitors coming to Luxor in late January or early February have a good chance of seeing the 22-kilometre West Bank marathon (w egyptianmarathon.com), starting and finishing at Deir el-Bahri. In addition, 2012 saw two new festivals that may or not become annual events. The two-day Luxor African Film Festival (w luxorafricanfilmfestival.com) in February showcases work from across the continent, with an awards ceremony at the Nile Heritage Centre. Some time in April, DJs and dance crews perform at the Luxor Spring Festival (w facebook.com/Lxr.Spring.Festival/app_20819510258120) an all-night event held at the Royal Valley Golf Club. Transport there and back is included in the cost of tickets (£E65–100).

Religious festivals

Locals have always cared far more about moulids, generally held during the two months preceding Ramadan (people can rarely tell you the exact date, but know when one is due). The tumultuous Moulid of Abu el-Haggag (pronounced “Hajjaj”) pays homage to Luxor’s patron sheikh – born in Damascus c.1150 – whose mosque nestles atop Luxor Temple. Giant floats move through the packed streets, some dedicated to trades (the calèche drivers’ bears a carriage), others in the form of boats (often compared to the solar barque processions of pharaonic times; though in Islamic symbolism boats represent the quest for spiritual enlightenment). There are zikrs outside Abu el-Haggag’s Mosque, stick fights (tahtib) to the music of drums and mizmars (a kind of oboe) and horse races (mirmah). The festival runs during the first two weeks of Sha’ban, the month before Ramadan. During Ramadan itself, townsfolk compensate for its daytime rigours by gathering to hear zikrs and musicians on Midan el-Haggag in the evening, where families picnic en masse for three days after the end of Ramadan.

Other moulids during the Islamic month of Rajeb are smaller, local events. Sheikh Ali Musa of Karnak’s lasts a week, its leyla kebira falling on Rajeb 6. During the moulid you can’t miss the music, swings and lights around his tomb, near the entrance to Karnak village. On the other side of town, Awmia village honours its own Sheikh Ahmed al-Adasi with a week-long festival, whose curtain raiser is a day of stick fights, horse and camel races. Following its leyla kebira on Rageb 14, there’s a final day of celebrations, when camels and horses are paraded through the streets and villagers throw sweets at each other.

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