Christmas in the Middle East

In light of the holidays I have put together a post celebrating Christmas in the Middle East. Islam is always associated as the de facto religion of the Middle East, a way of unifying the countries which is useful but I ultimately find this dissatisfying, because it negates the presence of Christians (and Jews!) in the region.

Christianity of course has its roots in the Middle East: according to the CIA World Factbook, all MENA nations report Christian populations, with the exception of Saudi Arabia. Lebanon rings in at no. 1 with a 39% Christian population; Syria at no.2 with 16%; Egypt at no. 3 with 10%; Jordan with 6% and Iraq with 3%. Gulf states now have sizable Christian populations, however these are made up of expats, not native citizens.

As I have posted before, Egypt welcomes Christmas with decorations (especially at the hotels) and at public spaces that Christians and Muslims alike enjoy. The Cairo Opera house features Christmas plays and Christmas carols abound. This year, however, tensions are high as security has been beefed up in anticipation of bombings and attacks on Coptic Christian churches. Things are even more grim in Syria, where al-Monitor reports at least 30 churches destroyed since the Syrian Revolution began, including the oldest church in the world, St. Mary’s of the Holy Belt, built in AD 50 (this is so abominable I can’t even find words).  Nuns and bishops have also been kidnapped. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Christmas is nothing but joy–and commercialism: Dubai has tons of shopping deals and decorations and Beirut has the Beirut souks, where Lebanese celebrities go to be seen sitting with Santa Claus.

The Mediterranean Middle East experienced a surprise snowfall in mid-December. Egypt was hit by the first snowstorm in 112 years; Palestine/Israel, Lebanon and Jordan were also hurt by the snowfall that blocked roads and brought citizens, including Syrian refugee children, out to play in the snow. According to Ahram Online, King Abdullah II of Jordan was even snapped helping Jordanians push a car out of the snow, dressed in a full set or robes! Some photos:

The dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, sourced from slate.fr
The Wailing Wall, sourced from slate.fr

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 candid photos of the snowfall in Cairo, Egypt:

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Arabia’s top celebrities celebrated the holidays, both Muslims and Christians alike. Below, some photos my favorite female singers posted of their houses, cities and selves all getting into the Christmas spirit:

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Myriam Fares, sourced from her Facebook page facebook.com/myriamfaresfans
Mirva Kadi at the Beirut Souks, sourced from her Facebook page.

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Merry Christmas!

Joyeux Noel!

S-L-M

Sources:

1.http://www.slate.fr/monde/81171/quoi-ressemble-le-moyen-orient-sous-la-neige A QUOI RESSEMBLE LE MOYEN ORIENT SOUS LA NEIGE? 14 December 2013. par Charlotte Pudlowski.

2. cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook

3. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2013/12/syria-christian-war-christmas.html# December 23, 2013. Translated by Joelle El-Khoury. Al Monitor.

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