UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has on 30 November listed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity the EgyptIan folk festivals related to the biblical Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt.
In February 2021, Egypt presented a file along with its application to UNESCO requesting that the folk celebrations related to the Holy Family‘s journey in Egypt be listed as Intangible Heritage, Mustafa Gad, Dean of the Institute of Folk Art in Egypt told ++Watani++. The file specifically cited the ++moulid++ of the Holy Virgin nativity and that of the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family to Egypt. ++Moulid++, plural ++mawalid++, is a folk festival of religious and fair-like character that celebrates feasts of saints or holy men and women. The tradition goes back to ancient Egypt, and is to this day celebrated by all Egyptians, Copts and Muslims.
The Holy Family festivals file was submitted for arbitration at the UNESCO meeting that was held in Rabat on 30 November. It gained the approval of 21 countries out of the 24 member countries of the committee.
According to Dr Gad who represented the Egyptian delegation at UNESCO as an international expert, and led the team which worked on the file, work started on the file some four years ago. Together with representatives of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Ministry of Culture, he said, the file was prepared very thoroughly. Dr Gad explained that the Ministry of Culture delegated many of its affiliated institutions to work on the file, namely the Academy of Arts, the Higher Institute of Folk Arts, the Centre for Folk Arts Studies, and the General Authority for Cultural Palaces. He also said that NGOs and Egyptian Churches contributed to the file.
Dr Gad said that through monitoring and studies, the team discovered that the two major celebrations related to the Holy Family, are the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt which is celebrated on 1 June, and the other celebration marks the Fast of the Holy Virgin in August.
The website of the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List reads: “The festivals related to the Journey of the Holy Family in Egypt commemorate the Holy Family’s voyage from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape King Herod’s oppression. Every year, the event is memorialised by two festivals in which Egyptians, including Muslims and Coptic Christians of all ages and genders, participate in large numbers. The first festival, called ‘The Festival of the Advent of the Holy Family to Egypt,’ is a one-day event generally held in the beginning of June.” The second event, “Moulid al-Adra” (the festival of the Virgin), is a festive string that takes place in several towns and cities, including Drunka in Assiut, and Cairo, between May and August. “Activities,” according to the UNESCO website, “include singing, traditional games, tattoos, re-enactments of the journey, religious processions, artistic performances and the sharing of traditional foods. The festivities are replete with social functions and cultural meanings, including the unified social and cultural fabric between Coptic Christians and Muslims evidenced during the preparations and festivities. The events are also associated with the provision of voluntary services to visitors by local residents and the exchange of gifts. The knowledge and skills are transmitted through churches and monasteries, within families, and through active participation in the rituals.”
6 December 2022
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