The ninth month of the Islamic year is known as the holy month of Ramadan. The time of the year in which Muslims wait for the crescent of the moon to appear as a way of announcing the beginning of the 30 days fasting. A special month that symbolises Mercy, spirituality and generosity.
The worldwide diversity among Muslims creates a number of different traditions in celebrating the month of Ramadan. Even though the Muslims are united under the same practices each region in the world has its own history.
Perhaps the most known one is a tradition that originated from the city Cairo and which spread to the rest of the Arab world, as the Fanoos Ramadan (Ramadan Lantern).
Fanoos, which is Arabic for lantern is nowadays used as decoration or a toy for children. But if one looks back in time, a different history is being presented.
The word fanoos originates from the Greek word φανός. Which literally means lantern or illumination.
Behind every great tradition lives a legend. The fanoos legend goes that on the fifth day of Ramadan in the year 358 AH, the Fatimad caliph Muezz El-Din El-Allah was entering Cairo for the first time. Because he arrived after dusk, the residents of the city had to appear with lanterns in order to welcome and celebrate his arrival. Families would accompany the Caliph trough the city until the Mokattam hill for the Ramadan moon sighting. Many children would joyfully hold fanoos along the way and sing welcoming songs. Since then it became a symbol of welcoming and celebration of the month Ramadan. In a way one can say that they are like the Christmas trees during the Christmas activities.
In the 10th century A.D., the ruling Caliph el-Hakim bi-Amr Allah denied women from leaving their homes. An exception was made during Ramadan when the woman could attend prayer outside their homes and visit relatives. This exception was only possible if the woman were accompanied by boys carrying the fanoos to light their way but to also to inform men that a woman is walking by.
The fanoos industry developed rapidly after the Caliph el-Hakim bi- Amr Allah passed an order that lanterns have to be installed in every alley, in front of every shop and home. When someone disobeyed they would be fined.
Nowadays the tradition is widely spread in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. It continues to be a way of welcoming the start of the month Ramadan.