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Muslims celebrate Prophet’s birthday

Lebanese and Syrian Muslim Sufi men attend a ritual ceremony to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammed, on November 20, 2018 in the southern city of Sidon. (AFP)

AKRA, Iraq, Nov 20, (AFP): From sufis in Iraqi Kurdistan shaking their hair to rhythmic drumbeats, to Libyan children receiving toys and Egyptians swapping sweets – Muslims across the world celebrated Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday on Tuesday.

Nearly 1,450 years after Mohammed was born at Makkah in modern-day Saudi Arabia, Sunni Muslims marked the anniversary with ancestral customs and new traditions on Tuesday, a few days ahead of the date recognised by Shiites.

In the Libyan city of Benghazi, the celebration has been under way since late Monday with children unpacking new clothes and plastic toys under strings of colourful lights.

The buildings around them are marked with bullet holes and craters – scars of the violent years since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi– but holiday cheer seems to overcome that. In Egypt, candy shops prepare the traditional “Mawlid (birth) bride,” a figurine made of sugary paste that is then dressed in paper skirts, sparkles, and fabric fl owers. According to tradition, the dolls must be offered by young men to their betrothed along with other traditional sweets made of dried fruit, nuts and nougat. And in Iraq’s northern town of Akra, a sufiritual takes precedence.

Men dressed in loose pants, matching jackets and wrap-around belts stand in lines and semi-circles for the “dhikr,” or religious invocations. To the steady beat of a nearby drum and the intonation of the prayers, they whip their long, wavy hair back and forth.

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