Sidi Badawi Mosque is undoubtably the most significant landmark in Tanta. Every year in October a festival is held here attracting kilometres long worth of people.
The city of Tanta is strategically located on the map in between Damietta and Rosetta, the two branches of the Nile River. This makes it a powerful location for transaction, transporation, education and communication.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt is approximately 100km down south from here whereas Alexandria is located 125km to the north-west.
Tanta has manuy names throughout its history. During the era of Pharaohs, Tanta was known as Tanaso. In 4BC when the Greeks came, they called it Tanitad
The Romans which preceded the Greeks called the city Tanthna, but it was renamed to Tow during the Byzantine Era. When the Muslims came and conquered Egypt in 641AD, it was changed to Tantada. At this time Tantada was just a small village with houses and huts made out of stones.
When the Mamluks were in charge, during the ruling of Sultan Asyraf Sha'ban in 1375 it was renamed again to Tant. It is not just a mere village anymore but a large aggricultural province. Overtime the local tongue corrupted Tant to Tanta.
Perhaps the most famous inhabitant of this city is Sidi Ahmad Al-Badawi, a historical folk hero and an icon to the Muslim world. He founded the Sufi order of Ahmadiyya in the 13th century. Sufism is an indulgent towards the mystical side of Islam, where spiritual relationship with God is more concerned than worldly matters.
A good analogy to understand sufism is - "you go to the gym to build your muscle and stamina, whereas you indulge in sufism to build your inner relationship with God' - a supplement for the soul in broader terms.
Just as there are various workout plans by different gym trainers, so too are there multiple tarikahs (orders), each founded by different Sufi orders.
There's a hierachy amongst the_______. The knowledge of Sidi Badawi transcends him among ____and he along with 3 other wali's were known as the 4 Wali Qutb or the 4 Axis of the World.
The 4 Qutb are:
- Sidi Abdul Qadir al-Jilani
- Sidi Ahmad al-Rifa’i
- SIdi Ahmad Badawi
- Sidi Ibrahim Disuqi
12 of us planned this trip, we had just finished our final exam then since there's a one month gap between the exam and our graduation ceremony - we opted to travel to fill up time. The journey took us about an hour by van (called a tremco here).
The journey was on a Friday and though the tremco driver strayed off course a couple of times, we arrived earlier than expected. There was a small tea shop just on the right of the mosque so we decided to have breakfast there.
The hibiscus tea here (known locally as karkade) was the thickest of its kind that I had ever tasted. It was very sour with a cranberry like aftertaste. Hibiscus tea is medically proven to decrease blood pressure by the way.
At noon we joined thousand of other Muslims for prayer. The mosque was nearly full to my recollection.
Finding an accurate history on whom was actually the first to erect this mosque comes to sort of a dead end. One source said that it was founded by Sidi Badawi's apprentice named Abdul Aal, whereas another source said that the mosque was built by Sultan Saifudin Qaitbey in 1483.????????????
What is certain though is that this mosque in its current form was constructed in 1769 by Ali Bey Al-Kabir, a rebellious Mamluk leader. Ali Bey's story is an interesting tale to explore in of itself because he was able to temporarily gain Egypt independence from the Ottomans. The Ottomans were rulers of Egypt back then eversince 1517 from the Mamluks.
The independence was short lived however, lasting less than 5 years (1768-1772) as the Ottomans regained control.
Anyhow a brief timeline of this mosque is as follows.
1276 - Sidi Ahmad Al Badawi passed away.
1769 - The mosque in its current form was built by Ali Bey Al-Kabir
1836 - Restoration work done by Abbas 1, the Khedive of Egypt at that time.
1844 - Another restoration work by Abbas 1.
20th century - Multiple restorations done by multiple leaders including Khedive Ismail, Khedive Abbas Helmi II, King Fouad, and then the presidents of Egypt after the revolution of 1952. Sometime in the 1960s the 2 minarets were erected.
Every year in the month of October, a festival or a Maulid is held.sdsadasdasdasdasdasdasda
The commonly cited figure of 2 million visitors per year to this event is highly sceptical since -
(1) There has been no concrete study or data on any of these claims except one by Edward Reeves in his book The Hidden Government. It states an approximate figure of between 500k to 1 million crowd attendance.
(2) Tanta's estimated population number is less than 450,000 in 2014.
(3) The total number of hajj pilgrim in Mecca in 2014 is less than 2 million.
There's a certain fragrance of yesteryear when you step into Ahmad Badawi's sanctuary, lighted with green fluorescent lamp and caged by these beautiful middle eastern enclosure.
Plenty of people had their cellphones up to snap photos and record videos.
I can't help but snap these 2 sunshines.
A footprint of prophet Muhammad is also present here. I highly recommend reading this research by Perween Hassan on this particular subject.
We were lucky to have a short tour with the caretaker of this mosque. He led us to room housing several relics of Sidi Badawi and a strain of hair from Rasulullah SAW, all carefully guarded. You need to have an appointment to enter this room.