Festivals and events

The Islamic year (Hejra/Hijra/Hegira) is based on 12 lunar months that are 29 or 30 days long depending on the sighting of the new moon. The lengths of the months vary therefore from year to year and from country to country depending on its position and the time at sunset. Each year is also 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The Islamic holidays are based on this Hejarian calendar and determining their position is possible only to within a few days.

The important festivals that are also public holidays (with many variations in spelling) are
Ras El-Am
, the Islamic New Year;
Eïd Al-Fitr
(also called
Aïd Es Seghir
), the celebration at the end of Ramadan;
Eïd Al-Adha
(also called
Aïd El-Kebir
), the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son and coinciding with the culmination of the
Hajj
in Mecca;
Mouloud
, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

The day of rest for Muslims is Friday. Observance of Friday as a religious day is general in the public sector, though privately owned shops may open for limited hours. The main exception is tourism where all systems remain operative. Holy days and feast days are taken seriously throughout the country.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is a month of fasting for Muslims. The faithful abstain from eating between dawn and sunset for about one month until an official end is declared to the fast and when
Eïd Al-Fitr
, a three-day celebration, begins. During the fast, especially if the weather is bad or there are political problems affecting the Arab world, people can be depressed or irritable. The pace of activity in official offices slows down markedly, most closing by 1400. You may want to stay out of the area during Ramadan and particularly the
Eïd Al-Fitr
, but for the patient and curious traveller, it can be a fascinating time. As the sun sets during the holy month and everyone ventures inward to break fast, it offers a rare and delightful occasion to wander through barren Cairo streets. For the rushed or impatient traveller, note that travel facilities immediately before and after Ramadan are often very congested since families like to be together especially for the
Eïd Al-Fitr
.

Note The dates of Islamic and Coptic festivals often vary from year to year.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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