Khidr Elias feast and its vows

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Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2014, Ministry of Culture, Cultural Relations Directorate, Iran

Every year in February communities in Iraq honour Alkhidr, a holy figure who, according to ancient beliefs, grants worshippers their wishes particularly those in need. In northern Iraq, during the last three days of the month, families gather on a hill where the sanctuary of Alkhidr is thought to be. Dressed in traditional clothes they enjoy specially prepared dishes and perform a popular dance called the dabkka. In the centre of Iraq, community members join on the bank of Tigris, which they believe is the sanctuary of Alkhidr. They deliver sugar, salt, henna, sweets and myrtle leaves and at night send lit candles on wood along the river, making vows for their wishes to be granted. If the candles go out before reaching the other side, the wishes are said to come true. In the south of Iraq, myrtle leaves are also brought but only one candle lit. If the candle goes out before reaching the other side, believers are encouraged to give to the poor on a Friday so their wishes are met. Younger generations learn about the practice from older family members and at school. Shared identification with the tradition has helped to build social cohesion within communities.

Men and women perform the popular Turkmen dance named Dabkka while wearing the traditional clothes
The traditional clothes of the Assyrian girls during the celebration of Al Khidr festival
Baghdadi families' presence next to Al Khidr's famous sanctuary on the bank of Tigris
Baghdadi women practice her traditional ritual by putting light candles on a piece of cork to send them into the river
Al Khidr sweets that are particularly made in Al Mosul province throughout Al Khidr Feast
Baghdadi women practice their ancient rituals inside Al Khidr's sanctuary
Baghdadi families' gathering in the courtyard of Al Kidr's famous sanctuary on the bank of Tigris under Bab Al Muadham bridge
Baghdadi women and their children practice one of the traditional rituals inside Al Khidr sanctuary
The tray of Khidr Elias
Azzidis and Turkmen gathering next to Al Khidr's popular sanctuary in Tal Afar district throughout his feast