Libya revives cannon salute to break Ramazan fast

Published March 25, 2023
LIBYANS buy cotton candy in Tripoli on the first day of Ramazan.—AFP
LIBYANS buy cotton candy in Tripoli on the first day of Ramazan.—AFP

TRIPOLI: The blast of a cannon booms across Tripoli, but it doesn’t signal another round of fighting in the Libyan capital — rather, the revival of a long-lost Ramazan tradition.

Officers in berets rolled out a red carpet on the iconic Martyrs’ Square on Thursday for the 600-year-old weapon, setting of a resounding blast moments before the sunset call to prayer.

The cannon, announcing the end of the first daytime fast of the holy month, is a tradition observed across the Muslim world, but Libya had not seen it since the end of the 1970s as dictator Muammar Qadhafi tried to wipe the slate of Libyan history clean.

But today authorities say they want to bring back the cannon announcing iftar, the meal breaking the fast.

“It’s a way to bring joy to the people of Tripoli,” said Akram Dribika, the city official organising the event. “It sends a message that life has returned” to Libya.

‘Beautiful surprise’

The 2011 revolt that toppled and killed Qadhafi sparked a complex, often violent power struggle that has lasted more than a decade.

But many Libyans long to express the country’s rich and ancient heritage.

The origin of the iftar cannon remains unclear, but it was likely born in Ottoman-ruled Egypt in the 19th century, when authorities wanted to inform a population with few watches or clocks that the fast was nearly over.

In Martyrs’ Square, Nouri Sayeh said he just happened to be passing when he saw the cannon, a “beautiful surprise”.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023

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