Ramadan Cannon

This is the famous the Ramadan cannon (Madfae El Iftar) which, with a mighty blast, announces the end of a day of Ramadan fasting, and signals the Maghrib (sunset) prayer. The photo shows the cannon being fired near Arad Fort in Bahrain.

Historically, the Ramadan cannon has served as a means to announce the end of the fast at sunset. However, today it plays an important but different role, namely to keep Fatimid historic traditions alive. The firing of the cannon is believed to date from the early days of Islam, when the Fatimid caliph instructed that a cannon be placed at the highest point of a city so that during Ramadan, all Muslims would be able to hear the shot signalling the end of the fast at sunset.

The tradition of using artillery to announce sunset has its roots in the sands of Egypt.

It started in the Mohamed Ali era in the early 1800s, but different stories are told about how it began. Some say it went off coincidentally at iftar time, and people appreciated the reminder so it quickly became a traditional practice. Others say that the then-ruler of Egypt Mohamed Ali intended to use the canon for this particular purpose. However, the tradition was carried throughout the years and even when the tradition of firing the canon was temporarily stopped, its recorded sound was aired on national radio and TV stations at iftar time.

One of the stories goes like this:

“When it was governed by the Ottoman Khosh Qadam, more than two centuries ago. The story goes that Qadam had been given a cannon as a gift, which he was testing during Iftar of the first day of Ramadan. When he fired it, the whole of Cairo reverberated with the sound of the cannon. The inhabitants of Cairo were impressed and thought that this was a new method of announcing sunset. The next day Qadam was visited by people who congratulated him on such a clever way for everyone in the city.”

Just after the firing, as the smoke still surround the cannon, the officers get ready to leave.

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