Ramadan Celebrations in Egypt in 2018
- AADITEE KULKARNI
- UPDATED May 29, 2018
- 9 Views
Ramadan is a highlight of Islamic calendar and one of the most celebrated festivals in Egypt. This month-long festival is characterised by people coming closer, unrestrained joy, prayers, indulgence, family get-togethers, and of course, love. In Egypt, Ramadan is marked by community, charity, delicious food.
What is Ramadan?
Believed to be the most sacred month, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan is observed by Muslims from all over the world and is considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This is the month of intense prayers, abundant charities, day-long fasting and nightly feasts for millions of Muslims all over. People observing Ramadan abstain from pleasures in order to become closer to God. At the end of month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr - the Festival of Breaking the Fast.
When is Ramadan celebrated in Egypt?
Following the Islamic (or Hijri) calendar, the dates for Ramadan in Egypt are variable, with an eleven-day offset from the standardized Gregorian calendar. In 2018, Ramadan began on May 16 and will be celebrated till June 14. For 2019, Ramadan will be celebrated between May 5 and June 4, while for 2020, it will be celebrated between April 23 and May 23.
How is Ramadan celebrated in Egypt?
- Ramadan lanterns
It was during the Ramadan of 969 AD, that Fatimid Caliph Muezz El-Din El-Allah entered Cairo for the first time. When he arrived, it was already post-sunset and hence the locals came en masse with lanterns to welcome him. Since that day, the fanous (lanterns) has become almost symbolic with Ramadan in Egypt. You will see the streets, shops, and people’s homes are decorated with bright and beautiful lanterns.
- Lights everywhere
From streets to houses, from cafes to mosques, from shops to entire towns, you will see lights everywhere. Giving the entire nation a truly magical feel, these lights only add up to the celebrations.
- Food & Drinks
People are fasting during the day, but post-dusk is the time for abundant indulgence. As the sun sets and iftar begins, people only talk about food. Egyptians are known to plan this in advance and stock their homes to prepare Ramadan delicacies. Friends and families are known to gather over sohour (meal eaten before sunrise) or iftar (meal eaten post sunset). Ramadan special platters and sweets dominate the cuisine during this month.
- Sweat it out
Funnily, it is seen that gym are usually packed during the month of Ramadan. People who are concerned about their health and physique think that this is the best time to kickstart their fitness regime.
- Resist the temptation
Ramadan is all about the devout religiousness, modesty, humility, charity and self-restraint. Most people use this time to embark on a month of withdrawal of temptation. This may include dealing with the withdrawals associated with cutting down on coffee, or alcohol, or even cigarettes.
- Aid the needy
Doing charitable deeds is of paramount importance during the month of Ramadan. The rich, mosques, and local communities come together to provide food for the poor. In Egypt, there are huge dining tables that are set on the streets where everyone is welcome.
- Family get-togethers
Egyptians are known to invite their close family and friends to eat delicious food, watch television together, play games, and have a gala time together.
While Ramadan is the month of fasting, food is on everyone’s mind. Food is the centre of attention throughout the month. Table tops are laden with trays of the most delicious food and drinks items. Let us take a look at some of the traditional Egyptian food fare –
- Kishek manekish
Keshk (or Kishk) is a flatbread that is made of a mixture of fermented cracked wheat and yogurt. The dough oozes of richness and is best served with traditional Ramadan juices and teas.
- Lamb mansaf
Mansaf can be made with chicken or lamb. The meat is cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and is served with fragrant rice. There is a unique way to eat mansaf (which can be made with chicken or lamb). This dish is eaten with your bare right hand while the left hand is kept behind the back.
- Seafood tagine
Seafood tagine originally comes from the port city of Alexandria. This hearty stew includes a melange of local seafood and vegetables that are flavoured with aromatic spices such as ginger, cumin, and cilantro.
- Stuffed pigeon with oriental rice
A true masterpiece, this dish is found in most Egyptian households for dinner and the recipe is passed down generations. The pigeon is stuffed with herbs, spices, and rice and everything is cooked together to maximize the flavours.
- Duck Fesenjan
This classic savoury stew comes from Persia and is made by cooking the duck (or pheasant), pomegranate, and walnuts together. This unique dish is sweet and sour in taste and one of the most loved Ramadan dishes in Egypt.
- Spiced Pears and Pomegranate
A must-have during Ramadan, this classic sweet dish is loved by everyone. Sliced pears and pomegranate are tossed in a bowl and seasoned with lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Places to visit in Egypt during Ramadan
Except for a few places, most touristy places are operational throughout Ramadan. Here are some of most popular Egyptian destinations –
Egypt’s sprawling capital, Cairo is set on the River Nile. A treasure trove of pharaonic riches, Cairo has a cache of attractions and definitely a must-visit while in Egypt.
An ancient capital of the pharaohs’, Luxor is situated in southern Egypt on the banks of River Nile. While the Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple are the top attractions here, the city doe shave its share of museums and other monuments.
Giza is located on the west banks of River Nile and is home to the iconic Egyptian pyramids. The Great Sphinx is another must-visit attraction in Giza.
This Mediterranean port city has many Greco-Roman landmarks, sprawling lakes, old-world cafes, fine-dine restaurants, and sandy beaches that the visitors can enjoy.
If you travel with the sole purpose of experiencing new cultures, Ramadan is the best time to be in Egypt. When it comes to the negatives, make sure that you know most historic sites and restaurants may close earlier, or may only open late in the evening. Public transport schedules may also be disrupted during this period. But let this not deter you! There are many reasons why you should travel to Egypt during Ramadan. There is a joyful and spiritual atmosphere imbuing the towns and cities of Egypt with music, singing, entertainment, and traditional Egyptian food that goes on long into the night.
Travel guidelines to Egypt during Ramadan
- Keep your day-plan flexible. Most places will have limited operational hours.
- Even if not fasting, it is considered impolite to eat/drink/smoke in public during the day.
- If you want hard liquor, it is better to bring some with you. Or buy it at the duty-free. No alcohol is served during the month of Ramadan in restaurants.
- As a mark of respect to the culture, it is advisable that you are appropriately dressed, with as little as possible skin showing.
- During Ramadan, many local restaurants will be closed. Exception could be five-star hotels.
- Belly-dancing shows are suspended during Ramadan. Boat operators and camel operators will work slower than usual.
- The traffic gets very heavy just before sunset
The month of Ramadan adds a totally new colour to Egypt, making this a must visit for those looking to explore the historical and cultural aspects of Egyptian Ramadan.
*Images are used for representation only