Right in the center of the Nile Delta, Gharbeya, the capital of which is Tanta, is one of Egypt’s largest and most densely populated cities. The most interesting event in Tanta is the mulid (saint’s birthday) of El-Sayed El-Badawy, the main Sufi saint of the Delta. It is the largest mulid in Egypt and draws millions of visitors (many from abroad) to the city every October.
Most events take place the night before the mulid, with tents pitched all over the city (particularly in the district of Saygar) where Sufi orders hold a zikr or a circle of remembrance, a spiritual exercise which typically includes dancing and music.
Anyone can enter the tents and watch as the devoted perform ― if you’re lucky, you may even be invited to join in. Also make certain to look for kids’ games with strange entertainers and magicians that rival the best of what old-fashioned circuses once offered.
The big day’s celebrations include a massive parade of the saint’s heirs and close followers on horseback. It is a fascinating sight with thousands of people crowding El-Sayed El-Badawy Mosque’s courtyard before joining the parade through the entire city. Riot police are usually present to keep some semblance of order. Try not to keep too many valuables with you at the mulid (pickpockets aren’t unheard of), and women should dress modestly and go with a male friend or relative.