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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Ramadan cannon: A decades-old tradition born by accident?

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The first time a cannon was launched during the holy month of Ramadan was a mere accident. Years on, it is now a tradition across much of the Arab world.

You may have seen it through your television screens while sitting around the dinner table awaiting the sunset call to prayer [Athan Al Maghreb] in Ramadan.

Some may have even heard it from their windows; others may have been fortunate enough to witness the moment in real time prior to the restrictions of the pandemic.

The traditional shooting of the cannon, launched by members of Qatar’s Armed Forces to mark the end of the daily Ramadan fast, has become a symbolic moment in region.

Since as far back as 1455, the loud bang has been heard by millions observing the holy month, though its origins remain vague.

One narrative says the ritual was accidentally born in Egypt. The story suggests Ottoman ruler Khoush Qadam was gifted a German-made cannon and one day unintentionally tested the his new equipment just moments before sunset during the first day of Ramadan.

When the boom was heard, Muslims in the area thought it was time to break their fasts and proceeded with their first meal of the day. However, when the Mamluk governor was done with his testing in the days that followed, he witnessed a sudden request from the public urging him to continue shooting at sunset.

Read also: Weight loss in Ramadan: How to safely boost your metabolism at suhoor

Khoush Qadam’s wife Hajja Fatma, also daughter of Khedive Ismail of Egypt, then convinced him to launch the cannon throughout the holy month, which may explain the reason why some name the ritual after the Mamluk’s governor’s wife.

From then on, the cannon was launched during iftar, imsak [to announce the beginning of the fast] and even all public holidays.

However, some historians believe that the cannon was accidentally triggered when Khedive Ismail’s men were cleaning it, also during the sunset.

In another narrative, the first Ramadan cannon was launched by Muhammad Ali Pasha, Egypt’s ruler between 1805-to-1848, while he was testing a large number of cannons as part of efforts to build a strong Egyptian army.

Like the previous narratives, the cannon was coincidentally triggered just in time for iftar.

The idea later spread from Cairo to Jerusalem, Damascus and Baghdad in the late 19th century. It then reached Kuwait in 1907 and spread to the rest of the Gulf region.

Now, the loud boom is heard along Doha’s corniche, just yards away from the Souq Waqif plaza where it is triggered.

Do you know of any other narratives to the story? Let us know!


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