Egyptians celebrate Prophet Mohammad's birth but miss sugar dolls

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Nostalgic Egyptians are reminiscing over the ceremonial sugar dolls that were once the highlight of festivities to celebrate the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, as traditional practices slowly die out.

Generations of children eagerly anticipated the annual arrival of the dolls at marketplaces throughout the country, enthusiastically breaking them into pieces in order to indulge in the sweet taste.

But in many shops the edible sugar doll has been replaced with a plastic version, especially in larger cities.

Whether made of sugar or plastic, the dolls are dressed as brides.

Yet, for Mohamed Sayed Farag, who makes dolls in the traditional way, the two are not the same.

“Mawlid without sweets? That can’t be,” he said, adding that he makes a sugar doll, called “Zefaf”, Arabic for wedding, which wears a four-layer dress.

The Mawlid al-Nabi holiday, which starts on Tuesday, is an important occasion for many Egyptians, marked by making traditional sweets that are sold in shops and street markets.

Prophet Mohammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in the year 570 AD. Muslims around the world celebrate Mawlid, or his birth, each year on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar.

Reporting by Ahmed Fahmy; writing by Hend Kortam; editing by Lena Masri and Kirsten Donovan