Sweet and sour: price rises hit seasonal Egyptian candies

TANTA, Egypt (Reuters) - The sugary sweets that form part of the annual celebrations of the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday are a treat enjoyed by generations of Egyptian children, but price rises in the country are making the treats a little less sweet this year.

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The sweets, known as Halwat El-Moulid, are sugared candies, decorated with colorful paper and shaped after a bride, Al-Arosa, and a horse, Al-Hossan, from Islamic lore which are often bought for girls and boys respectively.

In recent years, vendors said sales have declined because of higher ingredient prices and competition from cheaper plastic dolls imported from China.

“We were buying sugar three years ago for 3 or 4 pounds (20 U.S. cents). Now we are buy it for 9 or 10 pounds,” sweet maker Rabie Abed Rabbo, 65, said in his small workshop in the city of Tanta.

The price of 1 kg of bride and horse sweets this year ranges from 25 to 75 pounds depending on weight, size and quality. In previous years, the sweets would fetch a maximum of around 50 Egyptian pounds.

Egypt has seen price rises for commodities since Egyptian pound was significantly devalued after being unpegged from the U.S. dollar in 2016.

The delicacies are made of sugar and water solution with lemon salt, which is poured into moulds and frozen. They are only made and sold a few weeks before the Mawlid al-Nabi - the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday.

Historians say the bride and the horse figures appeared at the time of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, one of the rulers of Egypt during the Fatimid era, when marriages often occurred to coincide with the celebrations.

The Prophet Mohammad’s birthday is celebrated on the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. This year the celebration falls on Dec. 1.

($1 = 17.7525 Egyptian pounds)

Reporting by Amr Abdallah,; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Alison Williams