Fawanees at InterContinental Cairo Semiramis offers a beautiful Ramadan experience with its laid-back atmosphere, great food and sweeping Nile views lit by traditional lanterns.
This post is sponsored by InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.
Ramadan falls in spring this year in Cairo. But it’s already hot with the occasional sand storm or stifling heat wave coming through. And though I tried to put it off for the sake of my electricity bill, I gave up a few days ago and turned on the AC.
Ramadan means long days of fasting for Muslims that end at sunset when the weather finally cools and a fresh breeze comes in from the Nile. It’s when friends and families gather over iftar to break the fast with a leisurely meal that ends with Ramadan sweets.
Nights are long and leisurely. There’s an entire industry around TV series shown nightly throughout Ramadan. I got hooked on one myself, thanks to my husband’s loose translation, about the adventures of an Instagrammer named Lahfa and her hilarious quest to gain more followers.
Egyptian Ramadan traditions
During Ramadan, there are additional prayers called tarawih that go on until late evening in which the entire Quran is recited over the month. I can sometimes hear the tarawih softly in the background as I read novels over iced coffee in the evenings (with breaks for scrolling Instagram, of course).
At Ramadan, the cafes fill with people making up for a day when many take things slower.
Friends gather for “dish parties” where everyone brings a plate to share. And groups rent felucca sail boats to enjoy their meal in the coolness of the river’s breezes.
Though if you’ve got a major project or an event, it’s better not to launch it during Ramadan. The workflow slows down and there’s less business done in general. Meetings are sometimes scheduled for after iftar.
Fawanees at Semiramis
During Ramadan, many hotels and restaurants have special iftar menus or lounges with buffets, live music and shisha.
When the weather cools in the evening, there’s no better way to enjoy Ramadan than over a long meal with a great view.
One of my favorite Ramadan experiences has always been Fawanees at the Nile Terrace at InterContinental Cairo Semiramis. It was one of the first Ramadan events I attended when I arrived as a journalist in Cairo, working to build up my portfolio of travel stories.
Fawanees is great for unwinding with its relaxed atmosphere, sweeping Nile views, and soft cushions lit up by an array of iron lanterns.
This year, I went with my friend Mika. And I realized that after years of living in Cairo, Ramadan is starting to feel more familiar. It’s less exotic and mysterious now, and more like a birthday or Easter. A marker of time’s passage that you look forward to every year with its repeating tropes. Ramadan songs on the radio, late-night TV shows and powdery kahk cookies.
A festive atmosphere
We arrive at Fawanees just before sunset, when the waiters are still setting up and it’s nearly empty.
The tables are ready for iftar and draped in traditional Egyptian prints: golden swirls reminiscent of calligraphy on navy blue.
We take in the views of the Nile River that encompass the terrace. Traffic on the 6th of October bridge full of people rushing to make it home for iftar, the green grounds of the Cairo Opera House, and the tall hotel buildings of Gezira across the water.
As the sun sets, we munch on flat bread and dips, pasta in a fragrant tomato sauce and tangy salads packed with herbs and cucumbers.
The lamps light up in the evening and cast their speckled shadows across the ceiling. More people begin to arrive. A large TV screen shows music videos beating in the background.
Later on, an oriental band takes the stage to perform the classics with its array of keyboard players, oud, flute and plenty of percussion and drums.
I stay late over a cappuccino and take in the views of the dark Nile waters sparkling in the city’s neon lights.
My Ramadan this year has been hectic: meetings in Giza over a possible book deal, caring for a bundle of kittens that we found abandoned in the street, and the usual freelance writing, blogging and networking.
And though it’s only a few hours, my evening at Fawanees is just what I need. A reminder of the reflective spirit of Ramadan and a quiet get-away along the Nile.
InterContinental Cairo Semiramis, at the Nile Terrace
Fawanees at Semiramis offers open-air sohours and iftars with all the authentic flavors and traditional Ramadan drinks, as well as shisha. You can choose from a daily a la carte and Ramadan set menus. They can also create unique Ramadan events whether you’re planning a large family iftar or a business sohour. For more information, contact their Ramadan reservations desk at 27988188.