Ramadan Lantern is a significant element in Egypt for celebrating the holy month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Arab calendar, and the month when Muslims fast). The element passed through many phases, first, it was a just lighting source carried while walking in the streets at night as there was no electricity. Later, it turned to be a festive element for the children to play with in the streets. They sing special songs; the most famous ones are ‘Wahawy ya Wahawy, Iyaha’, and ‘Hallw O Hallw, Ramadan is generous, Hallw’ as they collect money and sweets from the neighborhood inhabitants. Nowadays, Ramadan Lanterns or Fawanis (singular Fanus) became more of a decorative item in houses, hotels, firms and everywhere announcing the preparation for Ramadan month.


The lanterns were originally made of engraved copper and lit by candles, today, of course, they mostly use electricity, or even batteries for smaller ones but candle ones may be available. Their sizes can go as high as three meters. In older days, sometimes they were made as toys in the form of a ship, a tank, an airplane or a tram. The toy had wheels, and a candle could be placed inside. There are several types of lanterns now, each has a name known by the craftsmen; such as star, watermelon, ghost, king’s crown, lantern, and his sons. Some names of lanterns that went down many generations include the parliament, Abu Luz, the cask, ‘Afrakoush, and the dancer’s Tar (a musical instrument resembling tambourine but without cymbals). This latter is not made anymore though.


Lantern craftsmanship is concentrated in Cairo at two main sites; Berket el Fil in Sayeda Zienab district and in Taht el Rabe’ in El Darb el Ahmer district, where the craft is transmitted informally from generation to generation in the workshops. And though its season is quite short, it has lasted the test of time, and is still very much in demand.

Mohamed El Gohary, Encyclopedia of Arab Folklore, Material Culture, Vol. 6. The General Authority for Culture Palaces 2012.
Mahmoud Al-Satohi Abbas Tawfiq. The popular lantern in Cairo: its origins, forms, purposes, social function, ways of developing it, and its impact on artistic education / supervised by Saad Al-Khadem - Cairo, 1971.
Muhammad Desouki, Candles, Lanterns, and Khayameya in al-Darb al-Ahmar, Baladna Arts Series, The General Authority for Cultural Palaces, 2009