With Ramadan comes various traditions, habits and customs. One of the major traditions that you would definitely notice if you visit a Muslim country is the lanterns that decorate the streets. Those beautiful lanterns give the streets a magical atmosphere. They are called Fanous (فانوس).
During Ramadan Muslims usually sleep later during the night due to the Tarawih prayers which are done during the night. In the days of the past before electricity, the Fanous played a major role in illuminating the nights of the holy month where people stayed up late and slept at later times. Nowadays it became a tradition to buy it to decorate the streets and houses. Parents also buy lanterns for their children to play with.
There are many stories about how the Fanous originated. One story goes like this during the Fatimid Caliphate, the Caliph Al-Muizz li-Din Allah was greeted by the Egyptian people holding lanterns to celebrate his arrival at Cairo during the holy month of Ramadan. And since then the Fanous became a tradition. Another story says that the Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim Bi-Amr Illah would check for the moon marking the beginning of the holy month accompanied by children who lit his way with lanterns while singing songs. What’s consistent with stories is that the Fanous originated in Egypt and then it spread to almost all Muslim countries. Regardless of its origin the Fanous remains a beautiful symbol of Ramadan.
Even though we aren’t exactly sure about the origins of the Fanous, we do know the origin of the word ‘Fanous’. Fanous is actually originates from the Greek word φανός which is pronounced almost exactly the same and it also means lantern.
The fanous was passed down from generation to generation and today it has become mostly associated with children. With children holding their colorful lanterns swinging them, dancing and singing. The fanous is a true magical lantern that brings happiness and smiles to the faces of both children and adults alike.
Written by: Osama Waheib