If you’re travelling to Egypt for more than a few days, you’re bound to encounter some kind of celebration, public holiday or festival. Here are just a few of the key religious events, contemporary festivals and folklore celebrations to keep in mind when you’re planning your Egyptian adventure.
- Coptic Orthodox Christmas
- Abu Simbel Sun Festival (February)
- Coptic Orthodox Easter
- Sham Ennessim
- Sandbox Music Festival
- Eid al-Adha
- El Hijra (Islamic New Year)
- Coptic Orthodox New Year
- Abu Simbel Sun Festival (October)
- Mild un Nabi
1. Coptic Orthodox Christmas – 7 January
An estimated 10–15 per cent of Egypt’s population are Christian, and the vast majority practise Coptic Orthodox Christianity. While it's still a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Coptic Christmas follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that places Christmas in December. It's preceded by an epic 43-day fast, meaning people are primed for a feast.
2. Abu Simbel Sun Festival – 22 February
Abu Simbel is one of the premier antiquities in all of Egypt, and twice a year (this festival is also held on 22 October) you can see the sun god statues of the inner sanctuary, normally shrouded in darkness, illuminated by a beam of sunlight. Locals celebrate with traditional Nubian dance, street food (save stomach space for some fresh koshari) and live music outside the temple.
3. Coptic Orthodox Easter – dates vary
Like Coptic Christmas, Coptic Easter is preceded by a long fast – in this case a 55-day one. As a result, a vigil on Coptic Easter eve ends with incredible feast that continues into the next day.
4. Sham Ennessim – dates vary
The day after Coptic Easter, Christians and non-Christians alike take to Egypt’s parks and gardens to celebrate the beginning of spring on the national public holiday Sham Ennessim.
5. Ramadan – dates vary
This Islamic holy month of daytime fasting (and evening feasting) is observed throughout Egypt. If you travel during this period, the dates of which change every year, you’ll find locals more subdued and streets quiet during the daytime when folks are fasting. It’s also possible that some historical sites will operate on limited hours. Travellers are not expected to observe the fast, but drinking, smoking and scoffing down street food in public during the daylight hours is frowned upon. Whether or not you enjoy travelling in Egypt during Ramadan will depend on your reasons for travel. If you’re interested in local customs and traditions, then you may find it enriching. If you would rather be able to see things as quickly and efficiently as possible, this may not be the best month for you to travel to Egypt.
6. Sandbox Music Festival - June
For three days in June (dates change annually), Egypt’s young and hip descend on El Gouna for an outdoor music festival that takes place right on the beach. House, techno and dance music DJs draw revellers that party well into the night. Travellers who want to immerse themselves in young and contemporary Egyptian culture (or just love dancing) will get a kick out of this beachside fest.
7. Eid al-Adha – dates vary
This four-day Islamic celebration (dates change annually) commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son in quite a literal way – the ceremonial slaughter of a goat or sheep by those who can afford it. This is followed by a few days of feasting and partying among friends and family. If you travel during this period, you’ll likely be invited to share in the meals and festivities with locals you meet along the way.
8. El Hijra (Islamic New Year) – dates vary
Recently made a public holiday, El Hijra is celebrated by members of the Muslim Sufi sect in a relatively solemn way (at least compared to other holidays). There isn’t any great benefit to being in the country for Islamic New Year, but it won’t disrupt your plans much either.
9. Coptic Orthodox New Year – 11/12 September
Celebrated on either September 11 or September 12 (depending on whether there’s a leap year coming up) Coptic New Year is a celebration of martyrs. There’s feasting, of course, but nothing like the mass celebrations that occur on other Coptic holidays.
10. Abu Simbel Sun Festival – 22 October
Abu Simbel is one of the premier antiquities in all of Egypt, and twice a year (this festival is also held on 22 February) you can see the sun god statues of the inner sanctuary, normally shrouded in darkness, illuminated by a beam of sunlight. Locals celebrate with traditional Nubian dances being performed, street food everywhere (save stomach space for some fresh koshari) and live music outside the temple.
11. Mild un Nabi – September
This nationally recognised public holiday is held in celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
Find a current list of all public holidays in Egypt at World Travel Guide.
Our tours in Egypt