Around Easter time, Ismailiya is a good place to witness the spring festival of Sham al-Nessim, when families picnic in the park between the Sweetwater Canal and Lake Timsah, vehicles are decorated with flowers and little girls compete for the coveted title of “Miss Strawberry”. Even better is the “Doll-Burning” or Limbo Festival, held a week later. Its curious title refers to a hated nineteenth-century local governor – Limbo Bey – effigies of whom were torched by the citizenry. Ever since then, it has been customary to burn dolls resembling your pet hate: footballers are popular targets whenever Ismailiya’s club does poorly. The dolls are burned on the streets after dark.

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