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Egyptians mark Coptic Easter during Ramadan

"Sham Ennessim" in Egypt   -  
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Amr Nabil/Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


This year, sales of salted fish and smoked herring are down in Egypt as the ancient festival of the Pharaonic Easter, or "Sham Ennessim", takes place during Ramadan.

Traditionally, the Egyptian Coptic church celebrates "Sham Ennessim" on Easter Monday.

This is the only feast that is celebrated by both Christians and Muslims in Egypt.

This year however "Sham Ennessim" falls during the holy month of Ramadan and for Muslims that means staying away from salted fish to avoid struggling with thirst while fasting.

"It (Pharaonic Easter marking the beginning of spring) should come after Ramadan or before it. But since it came during Ramadan this year, we don't feel the festive mood at all. It feels strange, we really wish that Pharaonic Easter had come during Eid (Muslim holiday marking end of Ramadan), so we could have eaten as much salted fish as we wanted", said customer Abdullah Abdel Naeem.

This year, it's not only Ramadan that is affecting the sales of salted fish.

The price of this traditional food has skyrocketed according to the owner of one of Egypt's oldest salted fish shops.

"Prices are very bad this year, they could not have been worse this year. Prices have surged hugely for no reason. Of course, we are hearing rumours and a lot of talk about the war and the dollar (changes in the exchange rate) and so on. But we don't really know the reason behind this surge. However, we were surprised with the extreme changes in the price of fish, especially the local fish, not the imported types like herring", said shop owner Shady Shaheen. 

"Sham Ennessim" dates back nearly five thousand years to around 2700 BC and it was a seasonal offering to the Gods.

"Feseekh" or salted rotten fish is prepared by drying mullet fish in the sun and then salting it in rusty old wooden barrels where it is left to decay.

It is always accompanied by specific vegetables and fruit - namely green onions, lettuce and lemons.

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