It’s that wonderful time of
year again when Cairo is decked out with lanterns and tents, and everyone stays
up late consuming too many sweets and soap operas. Taking part in the month-long spiritual month of Ramadan, fasting Cairenes will abstain from sunrise to sunset from food, drink, and all - despite the
heat - impure thoughts. Because alcohol is extra sinful during this time, keep
in mind that many of your favourite bars and clubs will be closed for the next
four weeks. Also, late afternoon traffic will be a nightmare, with excessive
honking and shouting - in the nicest possible way of course. While Ramadan can
be overwhelming for foreigners, both fresh and veteran, we’re here to guide you
through the month so you’ll be as happy as a fasting Cairenes with a sambousak at
Where to Eat
By now you've noticed that your neighbourhood foul shop is closed all day and your favourite lunch spot is locked up. But the fact that most of the city is fasting doesn't mean that you are expected to do the same. You’d do well to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in the street or a taxi during the day, but a number of dining options remain open to those who are not fasting. The city’s chain cafés, such as Pottery Cafe and Costa (link) serve food from morning to night, as do most fast-food chains and delivery options.
For more substantial daytime dining, head to any of Cairo’s upscale hotels, or visit neighbourhood favourites such as, Zamalek’s Blackstone Bistro, serving both breakfast and lunch; Cairo Kitchen will be open for lunch from noon until 4PM and Zooba serves starting 1PM. Over in Maadi, newly opened Begum in Maadi opens each day at 1pm and Bua Khao is open as usual at noon.
However, we do recommend that you save some room for sundown, when Egyptian cuisine - in massive quantities - takes centre stage for the night. Restaurants and hotels will be hosting tents and special fetar and sohour menus throughout the month. Check back for our reviews and be sure to head out to a few. Or sit at home with a kilo of konafa - we won’t judge. Either way, even though you’re not fasting, the night-time gorging is contagious.
Where to Drink
Got your passport handy? You’ll need that if you want to go out drinking this month. Not that you’ll have to travel far to do it. While we shed a collective tear at the temporary closure of our favourite balady bars and open air lounges, plenty of venues are still serving.
Cairo’s upscale hotels leave their bars open to foreign passport holders, so this is a great chance for you to fall in love with a new bar(tender). Head to Library Bar at the Four Season’s First Residence for cocktails and delicious tapas, or have a Heineken on draught at Harry’s Pub in the Marriott.
Expat clubs are also an option, usually requiring an entrance fee. Why not check out the Swiss Club or BCA. Or get friendly with a member of the invite-only ACE Club to see what all the fuss is about.
If you’re more of the reclusive drinker-type, we hope you responded to the texts from Cheers and Drinkies before Ramadan began, since both businesses will be closed for the month. If you live in Maadi however, you’re in luck since Massoud Supermarket sells beer and wine throughout the month.
What to Do
Take it easy during the day. Cairo becomes quite nocturnal in Ramadan, and fighting it is futile. Chances are your office hours have been cut back, so you should take the extra time off to relax during the day. You’ll need your rest for all the lively Ramadan nightlife Cairo has on offer. Ramadan tents often feature entertainment ranging from big screen televisions to tannoura dancing, while El Sawy Culturewheel holds nightly concerts and plays. Also be sure to check out Mawaweel Festival, opening at Darb 1718 on the 26th July. We’ll tell you more about this year’s Ramadan nightlife throughout the month on the Cairo 360 events calendar.
Aside from the entertainment, there are a few other things you should do this month.
-Dress contentiously. We know, it’s a million degrees and you want to don a sundress, but remember that whole abstention from impure thoughts thing?
-If you’re attending fetar at a family home, go with an appetite. You don’t need to fast, but you should at least arrive ravenously hungry, basbousa in hand. It’s not a matter of offending the host by refusing a third helping of food; refusing is not an option.
-Be patient and generous. Everything takes a little longer during Ramadan and you just have to go with the flow. It’s hot and people are hungry. Also, it’s a season of giving; if you’re so inclined, give a little extra this month.
Despite all this, there is but one piece of advice to go by; embrace Ramadan. This is a magical time of year if you stop fighting it and let yourself be swept away by it. If you have any questions or queiries about Ramadan, don't hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter.com/Cairo360 or Facebook.com/Cairo360.