Ramadan is well under way in Cairo, but before we begin, let's clear something up. Yes, kheima means tent, and yes, it's still a kheima if there's no actual tent. Don't ask why; no one has the energy right now.
But we digress; these tents have become a staple of Cairenes' Ramadan revelry and each year, they get bigger and better – and, actually, less like tents. But we've moved on from that.
Here are the top Ramadan tents in Cairo this year.
Inspired by the words of a famous Ramadan song, Wahawi blends the classic with the modern in bringing Cairo the perfect Ramadan night out, catering for all tastes and ages. Held atop Le Pacha 1901 in Zamalek, great Nile views are just the tip of the iceberg. Perfect for a laidback sohour, Wahawi offers good, simple food and drink, as well as entertainment; everything from live music to board games – so heated games of Risk and Monopoly Deal are a certainty.
What to Expect: Long queues of grown men at the Playstation 3 corner.
Only Tamarai can host a tent that makes Ramadan sound like a prissy young girl. Either way, there are few spots in the city that lend themselves to the whole Ramadan tent experience more than Tamarai; the open-air area is ideal for an evening of relaxing and refueling – plus, the buffet on offer only sweetens the deal.
What to Expect: Plenty of guys dressed for a yacht party, with shirts unbuttoned slightly too far down.
The Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers really comes into its own during Ramadan and pull no stops during the holy month. After yearly success with popular Ramadan tent, Meshmesheya, this year, the hotel welcomes one and all to Si Omar, where Oriental sohour and takht music awaits you. Unfortunately, you'll have to contain all your excitement till its launch night on July 13th.
What to Expect: Shisha and takht and shisha and takht.
The Nile is alive with the sound of Ramadan. A few docks down from Wahawi, the Imperial Boat in Zamalek has its own thing going on. Arasya offers Egyptian and Lebanese cuisine over both fetar and sohour as well as plenty of shisha and a lot of the colour blue.
What to Expect: The flag of Finland. When you see it, you'll know.
If things weren't confusing enough, Yasso, Y Lounge, or whatever else you want to call it, has shed its name-schizophrenia and adopted a new temporary identity: El Kheima – 'the tent'. Anyway, Nile-side views, board games, food, Oriental music and shisha pretty much sums it up.
What to expect: Another name change before the end of Ramadan.
It's at this stage that one runs out of ways to write about the combination of food, games, shisha and live music. However, Citystars' Ramadan contribution to Cairo comes via Fawanis, which – based on some sneak peek news – actually sounds rather impressive.
What to Expect: The unexpected.
Possibly inspired by the 2008 Egyptian film Hassan we Morkos – an insipidly on-the-nose and tediously preachy comedy of Muslims and Christians existing together as if they were physically allergic to each other – Roof Bar has really thrown a spanner into the works, delivering a somewhat quirkier rendition of a Ramadan tent. Unfortunately, the stars of the film, Adel Imam and Omar Sharif, will not be making appearances.
What to Expect: Live shaabi music with Oka & Ortega this Friday.
Heliopolis bars are keeping busy this Ramadan and Cavallini is never one to be left in the dust. On the food front, set fetar menus and an à la carte sohour menu will keep stomachs content, while more music – of the Oriental kind of course – will keep things plodding along.
What to Expect: Groups of youths asking staff when the house DJ is playing.
Often criminally overlooked, the Cairo Marriott Hotel is celebrating Ramadan with a bang this year. Som3a Basha has transformed the otherwise plane-Jane gardens of the hotel into an extravagant sohour hot-spot that very much compliments the hotel's royal palace roots – a quintessential Arabian night.
What to Expect: Flying magic carpets and snarky talking parrots.
Less of a tent and more of a mini-city, El Mashaia in Sheikh Zayed's Arkan offers a host of attractions, events and activities throughout the month, including special live music performances on the weekend. Think of it as a market of sorts; Arkan's usually spacey promenade will be awash with a special Ramadan bustle.
What to Expect: Kids; kids everywhere!
Not the largest of this year's Ramadan sense by any stretch of the imagination, Le Capitol makes up for it with seriously stunning views from atop the Novotel hotel; on one side, you have the Nile and the luminous skyline of Downtown Cairo, while on the other side, Gezirah Club's lit greenery glows under the night sky.
What to Expect: Ramadan mosalsals are projected onto the wall – it's home away from home.
Uptown Cairo Tent:
Now a hub of dining and events, The Club House, Uptown Cairo, is celebrating Ramadan with a tent of its own. Far from the hussle and bustle of central Cairo, this is a venue that is still spick and span. They're even offering Cairene's the chance to win prizes with some old-school fawazeer games.
What to Expect: Everyone to be on their phone, Googling the answer to the fawazeer questions.
Happy Ramadan, Cairo!