Egyptians celebrated a millennia-old holiday recently to welcome the spring season, despite the ongoing economic and political strife that has ensued following the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
Shem el-Nessim is believed to date back to the third millennium BC, but has been adapted over time and changing culture.
The holiday traditionally falls on the day after Eastern Orthodox Easter, and many families headed to the banks of the Nile where they hosted picnics in the parks.
Traditional meals include salted fish, boiled eggs, green onions and lettuce. The food eaten during the holiday is believed to have been those the ancient Egyptians offered to their gods as symbols of fertility and rebirth.
The Abdeen produce market in the capital of Cairo was bustling with shoppers stocking up on goods to prepare those meals, but some vendors such as Fayza Mohamed said customers weren’t too excited due to price hikes.
Aside financial woes, crime is also a major concern since the ousting of Mubarak left behind political and security instabilities, leaving many residents such as shopper Fatma Tantawi nostalgic for the past because of worries about the safety of their families.
Over to the Super Kaviar Shahin International, Dr. Fakhr was among many shoppers waiting to purchase “Fiseekh”, a pungent, salted and pickled grey mullet which is another holiday staple.
Dr. Fakhr, a muslim, said that the holiday, which is of Christian origin, has been misinterpreted by ultra-conservatives, and it shouldn’t be religiously categorized, adding that it is a holiday to enjoyed by everyone.
As Egyptians looked forward to the long weekend, it didn’t deter from the concern of the country’s liberals and leftists over the growing Islamist influence in post-Mubarak Egypt, which essentially entails stronger enforcement of Islamic law on the country.