The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

City Life

Guide to Visiting Cairo During Ramadan

Guide to Visiting Cairo During Ramadan
    written by
    Melissa Howell

    Travelling to Egypt during Ramadan can be a little intimidating for some
    tourists.   Knowing that the Muslim holy
    month involves fasting throughout the daylight hours may prompt many to
    question if it is an ideal or even appropriate time to visit Cairo. In fact, it
    can be one of the most exciting times to visit, but there will be a few
    differences in how you should approach a trip to Cairo.

    Daytime Dining

    A key element of Ramadan involves abstaining from eating, drinking and
    smoking during daylight hours, so you may wonder how this will affect your
    trip. We recommend holding off on
    guzzling water in your taxi at 3PM and you’d be considerate not to snack on the
    street. And while a number of
    street-food stands will not open until the evening, you will have no problem
    finding cafés and restaurants that are happy to serve you throughout
    the day. Most of Cairo’s hotel restaurants will be operating as usual
    and neighbourhoods like Maadi and Zamalek have plenty of options for midday
    dining.

    While Egypt is predominantly
    Muslim, Cairo has a Christian population as well as a large number of expat residents;
    so restaurants are used to accommodating non-fasters throughout the month. As long as you aren’t publicly imposing the
    sight of your consumption on fasting Muslims, you should have no problem
    continuing your regular eating patterns while you travel.  

    Appropriate Attire

    The Ramadan fast is not just one of food and drink. This is also a time
    of spiritual cleansing; so it is advisable to dress and act modestly during the
    month. While ladies in shorts will always attract some unflattering attention
    in Cairo, it is undoubtedly a faux-pas during Ramadan. To limit uncomfortable
    comments or looks, women are recommended to wear trousers or knee-length skirts. Leggings are also popular in Cairo; just be
    sure to pair it with a shirt or a tunic that sufficiently covers your
    thighs. Bare shoulders are rather
    scandalous on the street; so bring a scarf or light sweater to cover up.  

    Certain areas of the city will demand a more modest dress code than
    others. For example, a tour of Cairo’s
    mosques should be attended with arms and legs covered out of respect, while a
    modest t-shirt and skirt can be worn to an evening shisha outing in Zamalek.

    Seeing the Sights

    This is the aspect of your trip that will be most affected by visiting
    Cairo during Ramadan. With very few exceptions, museums, art galleries and
    tourist sites remain open during Ramadan, but operating hours will differ from
    the rest of the year. You should verify
    the hours of each point of interest with your travel agent or hotel concierge. However,
    it is safe to say that the earlier you plan to see many of the sights; the
    better off you’ll be.   Galleries, museums
    and guided tours will operate in the morning hours and then many will head home
    in the early afternoon before the sunset breaking of the fast. Afternoon traffic is a source of much
    frustration during Ramadan; so to make the most out of your stay, take a cue
    from the locals and have an active morning before retiring to your room for a
    few hours of rest.

    Night-time during Ramadan is full of cultural activities and by far the
    best time of the year to catch a variety of performances celebrating Egyptian
    heritage. Cultural centres and galleries
    host festivals filled with musical concerts, Sufi dancing, storytelling,
    special art exhibitions and crafts bazaars. Weekend nights are especially
    packed with a number of venues throughout Cairo offering free or inexpensive
    entertainment.

    Closed Nightclubs

    If you’re hoping to visit one of Cairo’s popular nightclubs, Ramadan is
    not the right time for your visit. As locals are prohibited from consuming
    alcohol during Ramadan, the majority of clubbing venues close their doors. However,
    foreigners are free to drink as long as they carry their passports, and all
    hotel bars in Cairo continue to serve alcohol throughout the month.

    Even if you
    can’t drink, this doesn’t mean dull nights in Cairo. On the contrary; the city
    is alive and bursting with energy every night of Ramadan. In addition to performances
    and festivals, the nights are made jovial by excessive amounts of food. At sunset, hotels and restaurants offer
    expansive fetars of oriental grills, salads and sweets. This is a great chance to sample some of the
    region’s best cuisine.

    After fetar and
    well into the night, Cairo is at its most social: sidewalk cafés and Ramadan
    tents are filled beyond capacity with families and friends smoking shisha and
    eating foul, taameya and eggs. At the
    tents, live music usually accompanies these long evenings of filling up on food
    before the next day’s fast.

    With some careful planning and a bit of consideration, travelling to
    Egypt during Ramadan need not be a vacation to avoid. It is an incredible time of year to catch
    amazing shows, eat massive portions of regional cuisine and see Cairo decorated to the
    nines for the celebratory month.   

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