A Ramadan Iftar to Remember

Enter in Peace and Safety

In celebration of Eid el-Fitr, the 3 day feast after 29 days of fasting, this post remembers a lovely Ramadan summer evening spent at the Demirdashiya el- Khalwatiya Sufi Order in Cairo. I do not profess to have knowledge about sufism. This post is intended to share an uplifting experience that was organized by Amir Abbas Helmi and the Friends of Manial Palace, an iftar (breaking of the fast) at the palace, mosque, and grounds of the Demirdashiya Sufi Order.

On the gate of the entrance, the plaque reads, Qasr (palace) Abdul Rahim Demerdash Pasha, donor of  Demerdash Charitable Hospital, for hospitalization of patients and the poor, 1928.

Iftar tables in the open portico next to the mosque that has cells for silent meditation during a sufi gathering,  on lower and upper floors.

The Khalwatiya, a Sufi brotherhood (tariqa), came to Egypt during the Mamluk period. The Demirdash family was of Circassian Mamluk ancestry, arriving in Egypt with the name Taymmourtash around 1517. Muhammad el-Demirdash el-Mahmudi founded a Sufi order —al- Tariqa el-Demirdashiya—soon after the Ottoman took control of Egypt. The responsibility of continuing the order passed down from father to son, and Sheikh Abdul Rahim Demirdash Pasha  assumed the mantle from his father, Mustafa, at the age of twenty-four. The Sufi order was made up of prominent scholars and merchants, which, along with his considerable wealth, gave Abdul Rahim influence in parliament, where he served, in various positions, for nearly twenty years. In 1928 , he donated his property on Queen Nazli Street (now Ramsis Street) to build a charity institution, the Demirdash Hospital, now a part of Ain Shams University Hospital.

Cells for individual sufis in the background. The key element of Demirdash Khalwatiya  philosophy  is silent meditation.

A peaceful but active order is dedicated to inclusion of all religions, gender, and peoples. All are welcome to visit.

For those who would like a complete discussion of the Demirdashiya al- Khalwatiya Order, read: Visionaries of Silence by Earle H. Waugh (AUC Press, 2007).

All Photographs and text are under international copyright laws. No re-use without the written permission of Lesley Lababidi 2023.

6 thoughts on “A Ramadan Iftar to Remember

  1. What an interesting and timely note. Once again you have taken us to an older time in Egyptian history. It is interesting to note that is resembles – perhaps – a monastery, especially with the “cells”. Thank you for a short note on Egyptian history – it is almost like we are there.

    • Dear Joyce,
      Thank you so much for reading the post and responding. Yes, you are quite right. There is a direct correlation to architecture of monastery space in mosque complexes also there is an influence from Christianity in the practices of secluded meditation. But far be it from me to delve much further into this subject as I am a casual seeker of knowledge. Sufism and secluded meditation has its correlation to the monestaries and secluding one self in meditation in Christianity. Sufi, as I understand, simply means wisdom and is found in both Sunna and Shi’a traditions. Lesley

  2. A nice journey to the hatch room of Sufism. I suggest you complete what you have started. I mean, you delve into the scope of Sufi Order for the sake of your passengers (audience).
    Today, Wednesday 27, 2027, marks the end of Sallah celebration, and sets the beginning of new life. Ramadan has taught us to eat two times a day. Henceforth, we shall eat three times, but with caution. Health is wealth. I wish you the best of this season. May God improve your health, and prolong your days to witness more festivities. My regards to your family, Maan, Omar, Zane, and Saadia.

    • Barka de Sallah! Wishing your Eid celebrations were with family and friends and able to rest after a month of fasting. Sufism is a subject for scholars and I only have a peak into their world but I felt it necessary to share the experience as it brought me, personally, peace and contentment with others. If you have insights please do share them as I do like your discussions.
      Eid Mubarak!

  3. I have a question about the group photo captioned, “sheihks, sufis, and young Abdul Rahman Demerdash.” Is the leader of the tariqa the child (Abdul Rahman Demerdash) pictured in the center in the dark colored turban? Would you mind if I used your photo on my blog with appropriate credit?

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