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ramadan in Egypt

Observing Ramadan in Egypt: Traditions and Customs

Did you know that visiting Egypt during Ramadan can offer a fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich culture and traditions? Nowhere else is Ramadan in Egypt celebrated with such vibrancy and enthusiasm as in Egypt.

During the holy month of Ramadan, which typically falls between March 21 and April 22, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a unique experience of joy and generosity. Locals eagerly welcome visitors, eager to share in one of the most significant events of the Islamic calendar.

A common greeting during Ramadan is “Ramadan Karim,” meaning “have a generous Ramadan.” This phrase encapsulates the essence of traveling to Egypt during this time—expect to encounter extraordinary warmth, hospitality, and generosity from the Egyptian people.

Traveling to Egypt During Ramadan with Egypt Planners and Get 10% OFF & Free Activities

Ramadan in Egypt

Embarking on a journey to Egypt during Ramadan with Egypt Planners offers a unique and enriching experience. As you traverse this ancient land during the holy month, you’ll be immersed in the vibrant tapestry of Egyptian culture and traditions.

When is Ramadan in Egypt 2024?

Ramadan in Egypt for the year 2024 is expected to begin on the evening of March 11 and end on Saturday, April 13.

How is Ramadan celebrated in Egypt?

Many of the customs and practices of Islam have their roots in Egypt, leading to a strong sense of discipline among its people during Ramadan. Throughout the country, locals observe fasting and prayers with great devotion. Homes are adorned with traditional Ramadan lanterns called fanoos, and families come together for iftar gatherings.

In keeping with tradition, the onset of iftar is often signaled by the firing of cannons after evening prayers in various cities. Muslims prepare a variety of dishes to break their fasts. Drummers, known as Mesaharaty or Musaharati, take to the streets in the early morning to rouse people for the pre-dawn meal known as Sahur. The month concludes with the nationwide celebration of Eid ul-Fitr. Here’s how Ramadan is typically observed in Egypt

1- Ramadan Fasting in Egypt

Ramadan in Egypt

Ramadan, deeply rooted in tradition, holds a special place in the hearts of Muslims in Egypt. With unwavering faith and dedication, they observe fasting from dawn till sunset, refraining from food and drink during daylight hours. Rising early, they partake in Sahur, a pre-dawn meal, before commencing the fast. The breaking of the fast, known as iftar, is a time of joyous reunion after evening prayers. Dates and beverages like milk or watermark the beginning of the meal, followed by a nutritious spread replenishing their bodies after a day of fasting.

2- Prayers and Gatherings

Ramadan in Egypt is a time for spiritual devotion and a period of familial and communal unity. Muslims gather for congregational prayers, reciting verses from the Quran as a mark of reverence to Allah. Families come together to prepare sumptuous traditional dishes for iftar, sharing the month’s blessings with loved ones and neighbors alike. Generosity flourishes as many extend invitations for iftar to the less fortunate, ensuring that no one goes without a meal during this sacred time.

3- Ramadan Decoration & The Ramadan lantern AKA “fanous Ramadan“

The streets of Egypt come alive during Ramadan with vibrant decorations and the iconic Ramadan lanterns, known as fanous. Legend has it that these lanterns originated as a gesture of welcome to Fatimid Caliph Moezz El-Din El Allah. Over the years, the fanous has become a symbol of Ramadan’s festive spirit, adorning homes and public spaces alike. Alongside the fanous, subtle decorations adorn the cities, creating an enchanting ambiance for residents and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the rich Islamic culture of Egypt.

4- Cannon Fire Marking Iftar

A tradition believed to have originated in Egypt, the firing of cannons to mark the end of fasting and the beginning of iftar adds a unique touch to Ramadan in many African countries. Stories trace this tradition back to Cairo, where the first cannon-firing ceremonies took place. While its origins may be steeped in legend, the sight and sound of cannon fire during Ramadan evoke a sense of tradition and celebration that continues to endure across the region.

5- The Drummer (Mesharati)

Each dawn during Ramadan, the streets of Egypt resonate with the rhythmic beats of drummers, known as mesharati, rousing people from their slumber for the pre-dawn meal. Originating from the Ottoman era, this centuries-old tradition serves as a reminder of the spiritual significance of the holy month. Mesharatis continue to uphold this tradition, spreading cheer and communal spirit as they navigate the streets, ensuring that no one misses the opportunity for Sahur.

6- Ma’edat Rahman

A heartwarming tradition observed during Ramadan is the Ma’edat Rahman, or “table of God.” These communal dining tables, set up along the streets, offer free iftar meals to passersby, embodying the spirit of generosity and compassion synonymous with Ramadan. Anyone is welcome to join, fostering a sense of community and solidarity as strangers come together to break their fasts and share in the blessings of the month.

7- TV Series Marathons

During Ramadan, the television industry experiences a surge in activity, making it a prime time for TV series marathons. With gatherings being a hallmark of Ramadan and entertainment being a cherished pastime, numerous new series, soap operas, and shows are released annually. The lineup can often include over 70 series, presenting viewers with a wealth of options to choose from. This abundance of content can make decision-making challenging for audiences seeking to indulge in the latest Ramadan entertainment.

As television viewership spikes during this period, advertisers capitalize on the heightened engagement, leading to a competitive advertising landscape. Brands seize the opportunity to showcase their products and services to captive audiences, with commercials becoming a highly anticipated aspect of Ramadan programming.

8- Football Tournaments

In addition to television entertainment, football tournaments also play a significant role in Ramadan celebrations in Egypt. Given the nation’s passion for football, it’s no surprise that it features prominently during this festive period. Young boys and sometimes girls form teams and eagerly participate in tournaments held at sports clubs and youth centers nationwide. These tournaments provide a platform for friendly competition and contribute to the sense of community and camaraderie that characterizes Ramadan in Egypt.

Traditional Ramadan Food in Egypt

Ramadan in Egypt

During the holy month of Ramadan, Egypt’s culinary scene comes alive with a diverse array of traditional dishes that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the country. From hearty stews to delectable desserts, here are some quintessential Ramadan foods that grace the tables of Egyptian households:

1- Ramadan Main Meals

  • Mahshi (Stuffed Vegetables): Mahshi takes center stage on the iftar table, featuring a delightful combination of vegetables stuffed with seasoned rice. This hearty dish symbolizes togetherness as families gather to enjoy its flavors and textures.
  • Rokak (Stuffed Pastry): Rokak, a crispy pastry filled with minced meat, is a popular side dish during Ramadan. Its crunchy exterior gives way to a savory filling, making it a favorite among both young and old.
  • Molokheya: Molokheya, a nutritious soup infused with the flavors of coriander and garlic, provides essential sustenance during fasting. Typically served with chicken and rice, this comforting dish replenishes energy levels and satisfies hunger.
  • Kebabs: Grilled to perfection, kebabs come in various forms, from succulent ground meat skewers to juicy chunks of marinated meat. These flavorful delights add a tantalizing touch to the iftar spread, enticing diners with their smoky aroma.
  • Fattah: Fattah, a traditional delicacy consisting of layers of rice, bread, and tender meat, offers a burst of flavor with each bite. Topped with a savory tomato-based sauce and garlic yogurt, this dish embodies the essence of Egyptian cuisine.
  • Koshari: A beloved vegetarian dish, koshari combines rice, lentils, chickpeas, pasta, and crispy fried onions, served with a tangy tomato sauce. Often accompanied by a spicy chili sauce, koshari delights the palate with its harmonious blend of flavors and textures.
  • Sambousek (Savory Pastries): Sambousek, crispy pastry parcels filled with savory fillings such as spiced minced meat, cheese, or spinach, are a popular choice for iftar. These golden-brown delights add a delightful crunch to the meal, leaving diners craving for more.

Suhoor, the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, is an important part of fasting in Egypt. Here are some popular dishes commonly enjoyed for Suhoor in Egypt:

  • Ful Medames: A hearty dish made from cooked and mashed fava beans mixed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and sometimes spices like cumin. It’s typically served with bread and often enjoyed during Suhoor for its filling and nutritious properties.
  • Taameya (Egyptian Falafel): Similar to falafel found in other Middle Eastern cuisines, taameya is made from ground fava beans or chickpeas mixed with herbs and spices, then deep-fried until crispy. It’s often served with bread, salad, and tahini sauce, making it a popular choice for Suhoor.
  • Egg Dishes: Various egg dishes are common for Suhoor in Egypt, including scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions (known as “eggs baladi”), omelettes with cheese or vegetables, or boiled eggs served with bread.
  • Cheese and Bread: A simple yet satisfying option for Suhoor is a selection of cheeses, such as white cheese (known as “Gibna Beida” or “Domiaty cheese”), feta cheese, or spreadable cheese, served with bread or pita.
  • Dates and Yogurt: Dates are traditionally eaten to break the fast, and they’re also commonly consumed during Suhoor in Egypt for their natural sweetness and energy-boosting properties. Yogurt, either plain or flavored, is often served alongside dates for a refreshing and nutritious combination.
  • Soup: Warm and comforting soups like lentil soup or chicken soup are sometimes enjoyed for Suhoor, especially during cooler months, as they provide hydration and nutrients to sustain fasting throughout the day.
  • Fresh Fruit Salad: There’s nothing quite like starting your day with a refreshing and nutritious breakfast, and a fresh fruit salad hits the spot perfectly. This is especially true during Ramadan, with a day of fasting on the horizon.

2- Ramadan Desserts

Certainly! Ramadan is a special month for Muslims worldwide, and it is often celebrated with delicious and festive meals, including desserts. Here are some popular Ramadan desserts:

1- Atayef (Qatayef)

Atayef, also known as Qatayef, is a specialty dessert from the Middle East, particularly enjoyed during Ramadan. Resembling round dumplings or small pancakes, Atayef can be filled with various ingredients such as nuts, cheese, or cream. They can be consumed raw or fried, then drenched in sugar-based syrup.

2- Kunafa

Kunafa is another traditional Middle Eastern dessert that is highly favored during Ramadan. This delicacy features shredded pastry dough soaked in sugar syrup, with layers containing different fillings. While nuts or ricotta cheese are the classic options, Egyptians have recently introduced various innovations. It’s common to find kunafa filled with mango (especially during summer Ramadan), Nutella, Lotus, or Red Velvet.

3- Nuts and Dried Fruits

Due to their nutritional benefits, nuts and dried fruits have become essential Ramadan snacks. It’s a tradition to stock up on these snacks in advance, as no Arab living room during Ramadan should be without a tray of nuts. Popular choices include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, raisins, dried apricots, dried figs, and dates.

4- Basbousa

Basbousa, also recognized as relevant or harsh, stands as a quintessential delicacy originating from the heart of the Middle East. This delectable sweet cake boasts a tantalizing blend of semolina, coconut, yogurt, and syrup. Often infused with fragrant rose water or the delicate essence of orange blossom water, basbousa embodies the essence of Middle Eastern confectionery. Its moist texture and rich flavors make it a beloved treat for celebrations and gatherings.

5- Mahalabia

Mahalabia emerges as a creamy indulgence within the realm of Middle Eastern desserts. This sumptuous milk pudding, delicately flavored with rose or orange blossom water, offers a velvety smoothness that tantalizes the palate. Adorned with a sprinkle of chopped nuts or shreds of coconut, mahalabia captivates taste buds with its luxurious simplicity. Embraced across the Middle East and North Africa, it is a comforting finale to meals and a cherished dessert for special occasions.

6- Znoud el Sit

Znoud el Sit, aptly translating to “lady’s arms” in Arabic, presents itself as a culinary marvel deeply rooted in tradition. These exquisite pastries are a hallmark of festive tables, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. Encased in a crisp, golden exterior lies a luscious filling of cream, harmonizing with the sweetness of syrup that envelops each bite. The contrast between the crunchy exterior and the creamy interior elevates Znoud el Sit to unparalleled delight, making it a cherished indulgence during festive seasons and joyous gatherings.

3- Ramadan Drinks

  • Annab: Annab is a vibrant red drink made from dried hibiscus flowers steeped in hot water and sweetened with sugar. Known for its tart flavor and floral aroma, Karkadeh is a popular choice during Ramadan for its cooling properties and ability to quench thirst.
  • Tamr Hindi: Tamr Hindi is a tangy and slightly sour drink made from tamarind pulp, water, and sugar. This refreshing beverage is cherished for its unique flavor profile, which offers a delightful contrast to the richness of iftar dishes. It’s often served chilled with a hint of mint for added freshness.
  • Qamar Al-Din: Qamar Al-Din is a traditional Ramadan drink made from dried apricot sheets soaked in water and sweetened with sugar. This fruity beverage is popular for its naturally sweet taste and rich texture, making it a favorite among adults and children. It’s commonly served cold with a squeeze of lemon for added zest.
  • Khoshaf: Derived from Turkish cuisine, Khoshaf is a delightful snack commonly enjoyed during Ramadan. This simple yet nourishing dish involves soaking dried fruits in warm water for several hours, resulting in a flavorful mixture that is garnished with your choice of nuts. Easy to prepare and bursting with natural goodness, Khoshaf is a perfect addition to your iftar spread.

Places to visit in Cairo during Ramadan

Ramadan in Egypt

Cairo, the vibrant capital of Egypt, offers a plethora of experiences during Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam. Here are some places to visit in Cairo during this special time:

  • Al Azhar District: In Al Azhar District, visitors will discover many small shops offering an array of handicrafts crafted from copper, tin, and pottery. A bustling carpet market and tent makers showcasing intriguing designs await exploration. Additionally, there are shops boasting silver and gold jewelry, among other treasures. A visit to the Mosque Madrassa of Al Ghouri and its mausoleum is highly recommended, as is exploring the Al Azhar Mosque, renowned as the world’s oldest university.
  • Al-Muizz El-Din Allah Street: Named after the Fatimid Caliph who seized Cairo in 969 AD, Al-Muizz El-Din Allah Street was once the primary thoroughfare of this era, stretching from Bab Zuweila in the south to Bab El Futuh in the north. Recently refurbished into a pedestrian-friendly zone, it offers a captivating stroll through history, day or night. As Cairo’s largest open-air museum of Islamic and medieval monuments, the street is adorned with numerous historical landmarks, complemented by neighboring alleys featuring significant mosques and Sabils. Noteworthy on this street is the Textile Museum, showcasing 250 textile pieces and 15 carpets spanning from the late Pharaonic era to the Islamic period.
  • Wekalet El Ghouri: Originally a Mamluk-era complex, Wekalet El Ghouri has been transformed into an entertainment venue where visitors can enjoy local folklore art and concerts in the evenings. This year’s highlights include the Tannoura show thrice weekly and traditional music concerts.
  • Khan El Khalili Bazaar: Venturing into the area, visitors will relish exploring the 14th-century Khan El Khalili Bazaar, the oldest and largest covered market in existence. Offering an array of souvenir shops selling everything from papyrus paper to customized gold and silver cartouches, the bazaar is a treasure trove for mementos. During Ramadan, it remains open until the early hours of the morning.
  • Fishawy Cafe: A must-experience during Ramadan is the iconic Fishawy Cafe, boasting a two-century-old legacy. Here, visitors can savor minted tea amidst the lively ambiance, while observing passersby in this traditional Egyptian setting.
  • Al Hussein in Azhar: Exploring Al Hussein in Azhar offers a unique experience, particularly during Ramadan. Witness the vibrant nightlife as shops remain open all night, and indulge in the delectable Egyptian pancakes known as feteer, served with sugar, honey, or various cheeses.

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About the author

Egypt Planners Team is a highly experienced travel agency specializing in memorable trips to Egypt. The team comprises expert travel planners and tour guides with a deep knowledge of Egypt's history, culture, and top tourist destinations.
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