Rows of copper lanterns carved in intricate designs glow in yellow and blue lights at night.

Ramadan In Egypt: An Ultimate Guide (+5 Best Things To Do)

Travelling to Egypt during Ramadan? Here’s everything you need to know as a visitor – and the best things to do!

Ramadan is a magical time in Egypt full of glittering lanterns and incredible food.

But Ramadan also means traffic jams and odd business hours.

And if you’ve never visited a Muslim country during the Islamic holy month, then you’re probably wondering what to expect.

How is visiting Egypt during Ramadan different than the rest of the year? What should you expect – and what to avoid?

I’m a long-time expat living in Cairo for the past decade (and counting) and this is my ultimate guide to everything you need to know about Ramadan in Egypt!

Dee sitting at an outdoor table at the Semiramis during Ramadan with a golden arch behind her and a table full of traditional dishes in front.

It includes all my insider tips of the best things to do and how to prepare.

I love Ramadan and I think it’s a great time to visit Egypt, sample holiday dishes and join the festivities.

But it’s also a month of irregular working hours and a slowed pace of life in general. So it’s best to plan ahead.

What is Ramadan?

The mosque inside the Citadel in Cairo at night is lit up in purple lights.

Ramadan marks the time of year in Islam when God first began to reveal passages of the Quran (the Islamic Holy Book) to the prophet Mohammed.

Ramadan means long days of fasting (no food, drink or smoking) for Muslims that end at sunset. In the evening friends and families gather over iftar to break their fast with a festive meal topped with Ramadan sweets.

Nights are long and leisurely. There’s an entire industry around TV series that run every night during Ramadan.

Egyptian Ramadan traditions

A man in a traditional Egyptian galabeya sings in a performance against a red festive backdrop decorated with Ramadan patterns.

Two images show Ramadan traditions in Egypt. On the left is a long table in a Ramadan tablecloth filled with food with rows of people sitting waiting to break the fast. On the right is an Egyptian musician holding a drum.

During Ramadan, there are additional prayers called tarawih that go on until late evening in which the entire Quran is recited over the month. You might hear these from mosques coming in from the loudspeakers.

At Ramadan, mornings are slow and quiet. Right during iftar (when people break their fast) the streets turn into a ghost town.

Insider tip: Iftar is the best time to take an Uber if you want to get across town in 15 minutes flat (likely with a Coptic Christian driver).

But everything comes alive at night when the cafes and restaurants fill with friends and families digging into lavish buffets and playing board games well into the night.

It’s also a spiritual time when you’ll find mosques filled with praying crowds in the evening. It’s a time for charity and giving to the less fortunate. You’ll see long tables on the street set up for iftar in the evenings to give free meals to the poor.

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.

What to expect during Ramadan

Dee on the terrace of the Semiramis taking a photo of the view overlooking the Nile and the Cairo Tower at sunset.

If you’re visiting Egypt during Ramadan, here’s a quick guide on what to expect.

  • You can eat and drink in public during the day without a problem. Nobody will be offended to see you eating. Personally I try to avoid eating and drinking when I’m out in crowded places, but that’s just out of politeness and it’s not expected.
  • You don’t have to dress more modestly. Avoid short skirts and plunging necklines in Cairo as usual. But there aren’t any special dress codes to observe during Ramadan.
  • Feel free to drink alcohol. It won’t offend anyone and people who work in the tourism industry expect it. Just note that liquor stores are closed during Ramadan, but alcohol is still served inside hotels.
  • Expect changes in opening hours. Businesses and money exchanges usually close an hour or two before iftar and reopen after the meal. Shops might close for about an hour for iftar but many tourist places just stay open.

Tall metal minaret tops in Cairo's Khan el Khalili are shown along with colorful Ramadan themed figurines on the right.

  • Check opening times at tourist sites. If you’re sightseeing without a tour guide, check opening times online because sites like the pyramids might close early.
  • Be patient with people who might be tired and fasting after a long night. Expect things to move slower during the first few days of Ramadan especially.
  • Expect heavy traffic a few hours before iftar as everyone rushes home for dinner. Plan for traffic jams if you’re going anywhere in the early evening.

All that being said, if you’re going on a Nile cruise or staying at a resort on the Red Sea, you probably won’t even notice it’s Ramadan. And it won’t impact your holiday at all.

Best things to do in Egypt during Ramadan

Dee and a friend sit at an outside table at the Semiramis stocked with Ramadan dishes. The view overlooks the Nile river and the buildings of Cairo just before sunset.

Despite the traffic jams and sporadic opening hours, Ramadan in Egypt is an incredible time to visit.

It’s also a great opportunity to dive into Egyptian culture and experience a special holiday atmosphere.

Egypt during Ramadan even draws in Muslim tourists from the Gulf who want to experience a more authentic and traditional holy month.

And Egypt still has some time-honored traditions that are harder to see in places like Dubai or Qatar.

Streamers and decorations near Moez Street during Ramadan in Cairo.

You’ll still hear drummers walking the streets late at night to remind people to have their last meal and do their prayers before the fasting day begins.

You’ll eat Ramadan dishes that date back to medieval times. And you’ll watch craftsmen engraving platters and lanterns to celebrate the holiday.

Here are the best things to do in Egypt during Ramadan:

1. Visit a “Ramadan tent” at a Cairo hotel

The Ramadan tent at the Semiramis hotel in Cairo is at the outdoor terrace lined with cozy grey lounge seats and couches with golden lanters, arches and lights in the background.

Two images showing the Semiramis in Cairo during Ramadan. On the left is the Cairo Tower standing over the Nile at sunset. On the right is a selection of Ramadan dishes spread out on the table, including flat bread and yogurt.

Many hotels and restaurants have special iftar menus during Ramadan and lounges with buffets, live music and shisha well into the night.

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 is Fawanees at the Nile Terrace at InterContinental Cairo Semiramis (It was one of the first Ramadan events I attended when I moved to Cairo).

Stop by Fawanees at iftar time (it’s best to make reservations) to unwind in the outdoor terrace with sweeping Nile views that glitter at night. Kick back and listen to the live oud music as you sample an array of Egyptian holiday specialties.

The views stretch out to the green grounds of the Cairo Opera House and the lotus-shaped Cairo Tower. Lamps light up in the evening and cast their speckled shadows across the ceiling.

Fawanees offers authentic flavors, traditional Ramadan drinks and shisha. You can choose from a daily a la carte and Ramadan set menus.

2. Have iftar at Al Hussein

A tall oriental arch leads down an alley filled with colorful quilted cushions and other Egyptian crafts sold by street vendors.

This lively area near the historic Khan el Khalili souq is an epic spot to join the Cairo crowds for iftar.

Grab a seat at one of the many local restaurants that line Hussein Square (Midan Al Hussein) and break fast with the locals.

It’s a magical experience to break into your dinner with hundreds of other people just when the evening call to prayer rings out.

I went with a group of friends and we loved the loud and lively atmosphere. And even though we weren’t fasting, we waited and started dinner with everyone else – and it was an unforgettable experience.

Midan Al Hussein is a square between two of Egypt’s most famous mosques: the Al Hussein Mosque and the Azhar Mosque just across the street. It’s an incredible atmosphere to have dinner amid two gems of medieval architecture and their splendid minarets.

3. Go shopping at Khan el Khalili at night

khan el khalili

khan el khalili

Cairo’s historic medieval bazaar comes alive at night with lights, street food and bustling crowds.

Khan el Khalili is a gorgeous medieval market that dates back to the 14th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is lined with masterpieces of Islamic architecture – and some of Egypt’s most incredible mosques.

And it’s a real must-see during Ramadan with its lanterns and festive atmosphere.

Stop for mint tea at a lively sidestreet cafe, dig into some Ramadan sweets from a street vendor and browse the arrays of handmade crafts.

Don’t miss Bab al-Ghuri, a historic gate packed with shops selling colorful lanterns and old cafes lively with musicians.

4. Dig into some Egyptian desserts

A view from above of a white marble table at the Semiramis in Cairo filled with plates of traditional Ramadan sweets and coffee.

Egypt has a huge array of sweets to be savored at its numerous cafes, restaurants and pastry shops.

Egyptian desserts are especially popular during Ramadan when even families on a budget splurge to put the finest on their tables. There are long lines at the pastry shops downtown as everyone stocks up on their goodies.

Where can you start sampling amid such a huge variety?

Here are some Egyptian desserts you must try during Ramadan:

Two images show the Semiramis in Cairo during Ramadan. On the left is a plate of cakes on a golden plate. On the right is Dee sitting at a table filled with Ramadan sweets with colorful lanterns in the background.

  • Um Ali is one of the historic Egyptian desserts – and one of the cuisine’s most famous creations. It’s a blend of puff pastry bits with pistachios, coconut flakes and raisins, with plenty of sweetened milk poured over the top.
  • Balah el Sham are crunchy on the outside and sweet and chewy on the inside. They’re best eaten with a dash of yogurt or coffee to break up the sweetness.
  • Zalabia resemble doughnut holes, but they’re more syrupy. They’re often sold as a street food and are very popular during Ramadan. You can buy them still hot, served in paper trays and doused with syrup or sprinkled with powdered sugar. Pure bliss!

5. Watch a Tanoura show

A traditional Egyptian tanoura dancer spins in a colorful round skirt decorated with lights while spinning another circular part of the fabric above his head.

Tanoura is a traditional Egyptian folk dance where a dancer spins to music while wearing a long weighted skirt.

Tanoura is especially magical during Ramadan.

And you’ll likely see this folkloric dance performed on your Nile cruise in the evening or at numerous Cairo restaurants and cafes (especially around Khan el Khalili).

6. Take a walk down Moez Street

A street in Islamic Cairo decorated with silver papers and streamers with a mosque in the background.

Moez Street really comes alive during Ramadan with festive lights, decorations and music at night. It’s also a lot less crowded during the day – so shopping and sightseeing along this historic thoroughfare is a lot more quiet and calm.

Shops and many restaurants are still open so it’s easy to visit and walk around without having to jostle through the crowds.

Ramadan in Khan el Khalili

khan el khalili

This medieval souq is one of the most magical places to spend Ramadan nights in Cairo. Admire the historic mosques, haggle for colorful souvenirs and stop at a lively cafe for a pot of mint tea.

Read 10 Best Things To Do In Khan el Khalili (A Local’s Guide!) for my ultimate guide to all the must-see treasures.

Cairo hidden gems

cairo hidden gems

From quirky art galleries to Nile-side palaces, get off the beaten path in Cairo to experience a slower side of the city.

Read 15 Incredible Hidden Gems in Cairo (A Local’s Guide) for my ultimate guide to all my favorite spots.

More resources:

30 Incredible Things To Do In Egypt (A Local’s Guide!)

25 Incredible Things To Do In Cairo (A Local’s Guide!)

6 Must-Try Restaurants In Cairo (A Local’s Guide!)