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Most of the land between Alex and Tanta is given over to cotton, Egypt’s major cash crop, whose intensive cultivation began under Mohammed Ali. Hardly surprising, then, that local towns are heavily into textiles, particularly the Beheira governorate capital, DAMANHUR, once Tmn-Hor, the City of Horus.

Damanhur is rather drab, but blossoms during its festival, Moulid of Sheikh Abu Rish, held in late October and early November, when turbaned Sufis perform zikrs and munshids to enthusiastic crowds. This occurs a week after Dasuq’s moulid; with venues so close together, the mawladiya (moulid people) can easily move on to the next event: barbers, circumcisers and all.

Egypt’s only Jewish moulid, held over two days in January, is a very different scene. The shrine of Abu Khatzeira (“Father of the Mat”), a nineteenth-century mystic, has often been suspended in recent years; when the moulid is held, it is cordoned off by security police who rigorously exclude non-Jewish Egyptians, fearing a terrorist attack or violent anti-Israel protests. Within the cordon a few thousand visitors, mostly from Israel, bring sick relatives or bottled water to be blessed, and “bid” for the key to Abu Khatzeira’s shrine; the money raised supports its upkeep.

Tell al-Fara’in (Buto)

On the edge of marshes north of the village of Ibtu lies the large tel known as Tell al-Fara’in (“Mound of the Pharaohs”). This was the site of Buto, which is the Greek name for a dual city known to the Ancient Egyptians as Pr-Wadjet. Wadjet, the cobra-goddess of Lower Egypt, was worshipped in one half of the city, known as Dep. The other half, Pe, was dedicated to Djbut, the heron-god, later supplanted by Horus. The site has a kom at each end, with a Temple of Wadjet in the middle, but nothing of great significance to an untrained eye. For more on Tell al-Fara’in, check the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut website at w dainst.org/en/project/buto, or go to w egyptsites.wordpress.com//category/delta and click on “Tell el-Fara’in”.

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