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Ramadan in Egypt


Page update - Aug 30, 2023

What can tourists expect from a vacation in Egypt during Ramadan, the holy month of Muslims? What are the restrictions for tourists? How to plan a trip? What interesting traditions and events to see? Read the answers below on this page.

The month of Ramadan and the feast of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) - not to be confused!

You can sometimes find comments on tourist forums like, "We were in Egypt during Ramadan. It's disgusting! We got a lot of Egyptian families, making noise, yelling, eating right in the pool!!!". This does happen in Egyptian hotels. But it does NOT happen during the month of Ramadan, but AFTER the end of the holy month - at Eid al-Fitr feast.

The month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This is a month of fasting for Muslims. They do not eat, drink (not even water), and do not smoke from sunrise to sunset. Or, more precisely, from the call to the morning prayer (namaz) "Fajr" to the call to the night prayer (namaz) "Maghrib".

Exempt from fasting are: children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the sick, the infirm, people on hard journeys, those engaged in especially physically demanding work.

This month should train patience and humility in believers. Moderation in all things is practiced. Of course, Muslims do not come to All Inclusive hotels in the holy month days.

The festival of Eid al-Fitr (sometimes called the "Feast of Ramadan" or "Uraza Bayram") takes place a few days after the end of the holy month. Fasting is over, and it is customary to eat a lot of delicious food on these days.

A lot of Egyptians go out to All Inclusive hotels on Eid al-Fitr. And they behave pretty noisy, eating and drinking soft drinks a lot.

Conclusions for non-muslims! Try to spend vacation in Egypt either before Eid Al Fitr, or after it. Staying in the All Inclusive hotels during Eid Al Fitr is not recommended.

The Ramadan schedule

The start and end dates of all Islamic holidays are determined by the lunar calendar. The dates change every year. Below is the schedule for the past and coming years. For the calendar of all holidays in Egypt, see our review "Holidays in Egypt".

Year The month of Ramadan The feast of Eid al-Fitr
2020 April 24 - May 23 May 24-26
2021 April 13 - May 12 May 13-15
2022 April 2 - May 1 May 2-5
2023 March 22 - April 21 April 22-24
2024 March 10 - April 9 April 10-12

The moon phases are not 100% predictable. The beginning and end of Ramadan is confirmed by a special religious commission. Each Islamic country has its own such commission. Sometimes it also happens that the date is shifted from the planned date to one day forward or backward.

The Moon is observed differently in different regions of our planet. Therefore, the lunar months may begin and end on different days in different countries.

Pros of vacationing in Egypt during Ramadan

The advantages are many.

During the month of Ramadan, the demand drops for everything: food, clothing, gadgets, jewelry, luxury items. Merchants try to sell more, and the main tool is discounts. It's a very good time for shopping.

There are fewer people at water parks and on beaches. Muslims are forbidden to swim under the terms of the fasting.

Hotels on the Red Sea coast are less crowded. There are no Muslims there. What are they to do there? Watch European tourists eat and drink?

Hotels are trying to increase occupancy and often give discounts. On average, vacation in Egypt during Ramadan is 10-15% cheaper.

If you go to an All Inclusive hotel and don't want to get out of it

Then you don't need to know much about Ramadan. There are three rules to follow:

First. Don't eat or drink anything after you get off the plane and until you get in the taxi or transfer bus. Egyptian laws do not force anyone to fast. Egypt is a secular state, but most Egyptians are fasting. They want to eat and drink. It is better not to provoke negative emotions in the people around you.

Second. If you want to smoke after leaving the airport, then move farther away, so that a minimum of people notice it.

Third. Plan your vacation so that you leave before the end of the month of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr.

Remember that airport staff can be a little nervous because they are thirsty and hungry. Try to be understanding about this.

Rules for tourists

As we wrote above, Egypt's law does not force anyone to fast. By the way, in some countries the law forbids even non-Muslims to eat and drink in public during Ramadan, for example in the United Arab Emirates. However, there are some restrictions for tourists in Egypt.

Selling alcohol during the holy month is prohibited, except for bars in hotels and Duty-Free stores in airports.

Hotels usually have limited entertainment. For example, they do not show belly dancing. However, this rule does not apply to all hotels, some are as usual.

Attractions and entertainment venues are closed 1 or 2 hours earlier. Some even work until lunchtime. Officially, the working day in Ramadan is shortened to 6 working hours. Therefore, it is better to start any sightseeing program in the morning and try to finish it by lunchtime.

In the afternoon, some restaurants and cafes are closed. Although the situation varies from city to city. For example, in Alexandria most of the cafes and restaurants are closed, in Cairo on the contrary - most are open. In Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh, almost all the restaurants stay open.

But the main point is that during Ramadan it is very difficult (almost impossible) to eat in the evening, because of the iftar. Let's talk about this in detail.

Suhur and Iftar

Eating before dawn is allowed, and this meal is called "Suhur". Usually Suhur takes place deep into the night, and tourists are not affected in any way.

Eating after sundown is allowed, and this meal is called "Iftar". Iftar is considered a festive meal. It is customary to eat either at home with the family, or in a restaurant with friends, colleagues, or family.

As a result, all the cafes and restaurants in the evening are packed to full capacity. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find a free table. In good places, all the tables for the evening are booked in the morning. You can wait for a free table for a long time as people sit for a long time eating a lot and socializing.

So, it is better to be in your hotel in the evening, where there is always a table for the hotel guests.

Tents are set up on the streets and a charity iftar is organized. They serve free food to all, even the non-Muslims. But there are rarely any empty seats there either.

Of course, this situation does NOT happen in resort hotels at the Red Sea.

Egyptian traditions

Cannon salute

The special cannon volley is fired in the Cairo Citadel, announcing the fasting end and the iftar beginning. This tradition is known since the 19th century, from the reign of Khedive Mohammed Ali. Although there are claims that this tradition existed during the reign of the Mamelukes, since 1439.

This volley is called "Midfa Al Iftar Idrab" (translated: the shot of the cannon of the iftar). The city of Cairo is now very large and not all neighborhoods can hear the volley, much less outside of Cairo. However, the volley is broadcast on central television.

Lanterns

For Ramadan, Egyptians buy or make lanterns of all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and with a variety of sometimes unusual decorations.

There is a legend that the tradition began in 969, when caliph Muizz Al-Din Al-Allah of the Fatimid dynasty conquered Egypt. It was he who ordered the foundation of the city of Cairo. Once in Ramadan, the caliph arrived in Cairo after sunset, and the residents came out to greet him in the streets with lanterns. And so started the tradition in Egypt of making colorful lanterns and lighting them on the nights of the holy month.

The lanterns are called "fanous". They used to have candles in them, but now they are electric. Large fanous are used to decorate houses and mosques. Children love the little fanous, run with them through the streets, and sing songs. The lanterns are the main symbol of Ramadan in Egypt, like a Christmas tree is the symbol of Christmas.

Drummers

These are people who walk around the streets an hour or two before dawn, beating big drums and shouting. This is how they wake people up so they can eat suhur. In Egypt, these drummers are called mesharati.

It is an ancient tradition. In the past, people didn't have clocks or alarm clocks. People didn't know exactly when they would wake up to eat before dawn. Mesharati is not a profession, but rather a voluntary social activity. At the end of the holy month, the mesharaties go door-to-door, asking for a reward for their work.

Naturally, there are no mesharati drummers in resort areas. They can be found in towns, but not everywhere. If you has stayed in a town where they walk, there is only one solution: earplugs.

New trends in Egypt

Over the past decade, many interesting social phenomena have emerged in Egypt during Ramadan. Most of them are new to the entire Islamic world.

In Egypt, fitness clubs are crowded during the holy month. Even special season tickets are sold for the entire holy month.

During Ramadan, all fasting people lose weight naturally. Even those who eat a lot on iftar lose a few kilos by the end of the month. Many people try to use the moment to lose more weight. Naturally, no one wants to limit themselves in food, so they prefer to go to fitness centers. Of course, this applies only to those who spent a normal day and do not "fall off their feet".

In Egypt, the ratings of TV channels jump up in the holy month. And no wonder, people watch a lot of TV, to distract themselves from thirst, hunger, and cravings for cigarettes. Nowadays, television series are specially filmed for Ramadan.

In Egypt, it has become fashionable to look for a date at the "tarawih" prayer. It is somewhat reminiscent of the proliferation of "Christian dating sites".

The "tarawih" prayer is performed during Ramadan at night, and usually one visits a mosque for this prayer. Young girls, if they want to find a fiancé, try to go to the mosque, dressed as pretty as possible. Young men also "pick up" the idea and try to look as presentable as possible. Naturally, they get acquainted after the prayer, not during it, because men's and women's halls are separated in mosques.

There is also an old tradition, when the mother of a young man talks to young women in the mosque in the women's hall, looking for a suitable candidate for her son.

Important and good to know

- During the month of Ramadan, Friday has the same restrictions as a normal Friday. Read our review "Friday in Egypt";

- The Cairo subway in Ramadan ends at 2 am instead of midnight. Read more in our review "Cairo Metro".

Have a great vacation in Egypt, and read our interesting pages about the country (see the list of the pages below).

TIPS FOR TOURISTS

What Don't Do in Egypt

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Sharks in Egypt

To Egypt With Kids

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What to Bring from Egypt

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ABOUT EGYPT

What Language is Spoken in Egypt

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Friday & Weekends in Egypt

Ramadan in Egypt

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RESORT REGIONS

Sharm El Sheikh

Naama Bay

Hurghada

Ain Sokhna

Mediterranean Rivera

BAD HABITS

Alcohol in Egypt - Prices & Rules

Local Egyptian Alcohol

Cigarettes & Smoking in Egypt

Vape and iQos in Egypt

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