The custom of firing the Iftar Cannon once during Ramadan is a popular tradition throughout the country, but Tripoli was the first of Lebanon’s cities to adopt it.
While it is not particularly practically useful today because of technological advances, historically, it had been a great way to ensure everyone knew that it was time to eat or stop eating in the past, and its legacy continues.
According to Dr. Khaled Omar Tadmori, the cannon has been fired in the city since the Mamluk era, when it was the Mamluks’ second city after Cairo.
This year, the Lebanese army fires the immobile cannon to announce that it is time for iftar (breaking the fast), imsak (start of the fast period), and the beginning of the Eid el-Fitr holiday that follows Ramadan from the city’s citadel, the same spot chosen by the Mamluks around 730 years ago, after it had been moved Rashid Karameh International Exhibition Center to maximize the reach of its sound.
Tadmori explains that before it was moved, some residents living close to the citadel had been complaining that it was too loud but that after it was moved to the Rashid Karameh International Exhibition Center, the residents who missed this tradition outnumbered those who were happy to see the cannon moved further.
Historical accounts trace the emergence of this tradition to 865 AH in Cairo. The Mamluk Sultan bought a new cannon and wanted to test it; the moment his soldiers fired coincided with the time for iftar. Its sound was heard throughout Cairo, and its people assumed that it had been set off to announce that it was time for iftar.
At that time, calls to prayer (upon hearing it Muslims break their fast) could not be heard in various areas, especially the remote ones, and so the people thought this to be a solution.
“The people liked this custom, and they went to the Sultan to thank him for it.
The Sultan was surprised but was happy with the people’s reaction to this step,” Tadmori says.