On the Prophet’s birthday, an endangered Libyan tradition returns to Tripoli

FRANCE 24 screengrab

Hundreds of Libyans packed the narrow streets of Tripoli’s old city Tuesday for a celebration of Mawlid, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, braving security threats from hardline Salafists opposed to the ancient Sufi tradition.


Dressed in traditional finery, with drums and cymbals accompanying joyous hymns and chants, Libyans took to the streets of Tripoli’s old, walled city to celebrate Mawlid, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.

After a break of at least four years, Mawlid was celebrated in the Libyan capital this year. The festivities are an important event, dating back centuries, for Sufis in this North African nation. But rising tensions between Sufis and Salafists, whose numbers have grown over the past few years, have seen a cancellation of such festivities across Libya.

Tripoli is home to many historic Zaouias or Sufi mosques, and this year, Abdallah Banoon, leader of the Great Sufi Zaouia, told FRANCE 24 he has happy to participate in the public festivities.

"We have not been able to celebrate this holiday these past few years. Not because I was afraid to be shot myself, but because I was afraid that a crazy person might blow himself up amongst the people assembled here," said Banoon.

For many Tripoli residents, it was a joy to welcome back a beloved tradition. "It's extraordinary, this traditional celebration had disappeared for four years, it was heartbreaking,” said one resident. It was a sentiment echoed by a female resident. "I feel reassured to see our traditions return," she explained.

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