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Chinese and Egyptian lanterns compete for Ramadan market

  • Source: Xinhua
  • [11:14 August 14 2009]
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In the lead-up to this year's Ramadan, a competition between Chinese-made and Egyptian-made lanterns is taking place in Cairo.

During the holy Muslim month of fasting, which begins on or around August 22, Egyptians will decorate their houses with "Ramadan lanterns."

Traditional Egyptian handmade lanterns are made of metal and brightly colored glass, a handicraft passed from generation to generation. They also generally use real candles.

But the traditional lanterns now face challenges from battery-powered lanterns made in China, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Often decorated with cartoon characters, some are even capable of playing popular Egyptian songs electronically, making them irresistible to kids.

Soundbite: An Egyptian man "The difference is that plastic Chinese lanterns are only for kids, but Egyptian lanterns are now used in streets, hotels, tourist boats, large stores and so on."

However, fun is not the only reason behind the salability of Chinese lanterns. Safety is believed to be another important reason.

Soundbite: A young Egyptian man "Of course I prefer Chinese lanterns. Egyptian lanterns are no longer suitable for children because the candles inside and metal outside may hurt them. Chinese lanterns, however, are lit by batteries and made of plastic. They are more safe for children."

Traditional Egyptian lanterns still have loyal customers, and can be seen over the entrances of restaurants, hotels and other stores throughout Ramadan.

Soundbite: An Egyptian lantern merchant "Egyptian lanterns enjoy much popularity not only in the Egyptian market. I export Egyptian lanterns to clients in Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I also have had a client in New York for 14 years."

Fortunately, for now it appears the Egyptian Ramadan lantern market is big enough for the old, and the new.