|Photo © Mosa’ab El Shamy- Courtesy Time LightBox|
Although the majority of Muslim scholars favor the observance of Muhammad's birthday, the more orthodox do not. In some countries, such as Egypt and Sudan, Mawlid is used as a generic term for the celebration of birthdays of local Sufi saints as well. Around 3,000 Mawlid celebrations are held each year and attended by tens of thousands of people.
The largest Mawlid in Egypt attracts up to three million people, and honors Ahmad al-Badawi, a local 13th-century Sufi saint. It is easy to forget that Egypt was once the seat of the Fatimid Caliphate, a Shia Islamic caliphate, which left exquisite examples of Islamic architecture such as the Al Azhar University, the Al Hakim mosque and the El Hussein mosque (Masjid El Imam Hussein).
The largest Mawlid is that of Ahmad Al-Badawi, the founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order, a Moroccan Sufi who fought the Crusaders in the 13th century.
Exploring The Mawlids of Egypt is the work of Egyptian photographer Mosa’ab El Shamy, a Cairo-based independent photographer who covers daily news stories, as well as in-depth cultural and social documentary projects. In 2013, TIME picked one of Mosa'ab's photographs among its best 10 photos of the year. He won an Award of Excellence from Pictures of the Year International competition and then selected by PDN among its 30 Emerging Photographers in 2014, as well as one of the Guardian’s Top 10 Youth in Digital Media.
He also won the Egypt International Photography Contest and Arab Union of Photographers competition and was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Terry O’Neil award, Hasselblad and Professional Photographer of The Year.