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MEMENTO MORI - remember to die!

A contemporary Muslim cemetery in a small Egyptian town. The graves marking the resting place of the dead are modest with no flowers or figures. On the graves there are only inscriptions with verses from the Koran. Sometimes the names of the deceased are written on the gravestones, as well as the date of birth and death, and in the case of mass graves, only the family name.

Muslim cemetery in a small Egyptian town

Visiting cemeteries is a good deed and Muslims generally visit cemeteries on Friday (non-working, religious day, equivalent to a European Sunday) after midday prayer and on Muslim holidays. In Egypt and Islam, the Day of the Dead is not celebrated. Muslims remember the dead in their daily prayer.

The graves in Egypt

Funerals in modern Egypt

In the Muslim tradition, a funeral must follow strict rules. Sharia, the religious law of Islam, requires that, in order to honor the deceased, the burial should be as soon as possible and preceded by a series of rituals.

The first stage is to wash the body of the deceased (in Arabic; ghusul). It must take place only a few hours after death. Orthodox practices require that the body should be wrapped in a cloth over which clean water is poured. Washing (Arabic ablution) is performed by members of the deceased's family of the same sex. Then, as a sign of respect, the body is wrapped in a pure white cloth called kafan in Arabic. The family of the deceased accepts condolences from the mourners who come to the ceremony to pray for them. 

Cemetery in Egypt

After the prayers, there is a burial (in Arabic; al-dafin). The body is placed without a coffin directly into the grave, lying on the right side, with the head facing Mecca. Small packages of sand are placed under the head, cheek and arm of the deceased, which symbolize the Koran's verses spoken at the funeral: "We made you out of it, we return you to it and we will resurrect you from it". After the funeral, the family of the deceased accepts condolences for three days. Mourning lasts 40 days. During these 40 days, every Thursday after the last evening prayer, the family, friends and acquaintances of the deceased meet and remember them.

The monuments marking the resting place of the deceased's in Egypt