Egyptians enjoy Spring Day despite warnings over salted fish

09:09, April 06, 2010      

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In the bright sunshine of Cairo, Michell, 31, who sat with his wife and two toddlers under a tree in Fustat Park, was eating fish and, apparently, listening to pop music which could be heard from far away. It is the day of Spring Day.

At the gate of the park, the guardian was extremely busy ticketing the visitors. "More people flocked to the garden this year. There is not enough place for so many cars to park," said the guardian.

In the garden, people were spreading all over the green areas. Some young people and children were roaming, others were playing football.

Sham El-Naseem, the Spring Day, is a pure Egyptian festival which dates back to 2700 BC when Pharaohs firstly called it Shamus, which means life resurrection.

As time passed, the name was changed to Sham, and then Naseem, which means pleasant breeze, was added in reference to the start of spring season.

Egyptians are used to flock to parks on this oldest festival, which falls on the first Monday after Eastern Easter celebrations. Some others prefer to take a felucca to enjoy the fantastic view of the Nile River.

They never forget to take the special food: colored eggs for their breakfast, and feseekh (salted fish), onions and lettuce for lunch. They prefer to enjoy meals in the open air with their families and relatives.

Despite warnings by the government against the dangers of feseekh and media reports over seizure of tons of unfit fish in markets this year, most people insist that feseekh is indispensable for Sham El-Naseem.

Health experts warn that eating salted fish might cause disease or physical disability as some manufacturers lack necessary health safety measures while producing this kind of fish.

A report published by the local daily Al-Wafd said some manufacturers even use rotten fish to prepare feseekh.

Moreover, doctors warn that salted fish is life-threatening to those who suffer from hypertension due to the huge quantities of salt used in the fish.

Dr. Abdel Rahman El-Naggar, a toxin expert, said the unfit salted fish is extremely poisonous and costs much for recovery.

Emad, a 45-year-old man who was chatting with his friends on the lawn of the Fustat Park, said "we go to gardens and eat salted and smoked fish every year on this day. It is a habit that we cannot give up."

However, Emad said he refrained from buying salted fish this year, as "it is so expensive that I couldn't afford. I am satisfied with celebrating with chicken and ordinary food."

Khaled, a 22-year-old sportsman, however, believes that eating salted fish is a life-threatening habit due to the fish's high probability of being contaminated.

"I ate fried fish instead, it is good for health," the young man said, adding "feseekh eaters have increased in numbers despite warnings made by the government."

Meriam, 28, believes that the government's warnings are not so serious.

"The government says meat contains harmful worms and the chicken is infected with the bird flue, they want people not to eat in order to control consumption," said Meriam, adding "I will eat feseekh this year and the coming years."



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