Saturday, March 6, 2010

Despite dangers, Algerians snap up holiday fireworks

By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 25/02/10


Detail: Algerian authorities are scrambling to crack down on the sale of illegal fireworks, which many children will light on Friday (February 26th) for Mouled celebrations.

As the number of firework-related accidents climbs every year, officials are trying to cut down on the availability of such goods in order to improve public safety.

The sale of bangers and flares is prohibited in Algeria, but this doesn't prevent markets like Djamâa Lihoud in Algiers, a noted sales hub, from unloading them in mass quantities.

"I've been in this business for 10 years now. It's true that it brings in a lot of money, but it's still risky," vendor Rachid told Magharebia. "If there were to be a police raid or an accident, then all my investments would go up in smoke."

Kamel, who is unemployed, made the 100-kilometre trek from Bouira to buy fireworks to resell. "It's an opportunity to make a bit of money. I hope it's going to work out like it did last year," he told Magharebia. He said that he made 5,000 euros in profit selling fireworks for last year's celebration.

The availability of fireworks and other flammable delights appears to increase every year, as exports from China flood the market. With one week to go before the celebrations, the Djamâa Lihoud is filled to the brim with tantalising crackers and candles, all colourfully packaged to entice children all over the country.

Police are overwhelmed by the seemingly endless influx of fiery goods, and are reluctant to crack down on vendors for fear it would cause a riot, as has happened in the past.

"It's like this all around here," said a police officer patrolling Djamâa Lihoud.

Customs officers occasionally seize containers of fireworks, but the bulk of the imported products end up in the street vendors' stalls.

One customs officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told Magharebia that most of the fireworks entering Algeria come via small suitcases, or hidden in the midst of other declared goods.

Even religious authorities are weighing in on the controversial use of fireworks in the celebration.

Cheikh Rabie of the Kouba Mosque in Algiers used his February 19th sermon to explain that bangers have nothing to do with the birth of the Prophet.

"Thousands of millions are wasted for nothing, and meanwhile people complain about the cost of living," Cheik Rabie told worshippers. "First, it's the responsibility of the parents. They shouldn't cave into their children's whims."

of parents who spoke to Magharebia will ignore the appeals of government officials and imams, just to make their children happy.

Salima, a teacher, understands that fireworks may not be the best way to celebrate the Prophet's birthday, but she still buys a substantial quantity for her two children.

"I don't want them to feel deprived, compared with their friends in the area. Imagine, just for a moment, that I deny them this fun, and they see all their friends celebrating. They'll be sad, and I'll be sad for them," she said.

Omar, a doctor, knows how to limit his spending on bangers. "I'm going to buy some candles for the girls and some bangers for the boys. But I'll hide them right up until the evening of the Mouled – that way, they won't be asking me to buy more."


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