Oasis Magazine Articles

A Woman in Cairo - Ramadan for Expats

By LeAnne Graves

I first arrived to Cairo in July 2008, right before Ramadan. It was very difficult to meet people in the beginning and the holy month didn’t really afford many opportunities to mingle. Costa Coffee had just opened on Road 9, and I spent my evenings sitting outside reading and people watching. It was lonely, but as time passed I learned that there are some great things that you can take advantage of during this month.

For me, I actually really enjoy grocery shopping. It’s cathartic. And believe it or not, you can enjoy Carrefour during Ramadan. It sounds like an oxymoron, I know. Who enjoys Carrefour? During iftar (meal breaking fast), the store is nearly empty allowing you to peruse the aisles at your leisure without feeling the usual chaos. However, a word of warning: do not go before iftar or on Thursday nights as many families are preparing for Friday feasts.

You’re also going to notice how peaceful the streets are during this time as families are inside having dinner with one another (particularly at the start of the month).Go for a jog, walk or biking; however, especially women, please do not go out alone during this time. Many incidents occur during iftar because there are fewer people to come to your rescue should something happen. It is crucial that you remain diligent and implement the buddy system. 

Get some friends together and hold a potluck on a felucca on the Nile, available near TGI Fridays on the Maadi Corniche. The felucca costs around LE 50 per hour (tips are separate), and make sure to tip the person prior to arriving back to the dock.

If you want an even nicer party, arrange to book the Yacht Christina for 25 people. And yes, you can bring alcohol. For more information on the Yacht Christina bookings, please visit http://mychristina.net.

A lot expats ask the burning question: “Can I still get alcohol?” Many places will stop serving for the holy month, but some places continue as long as you are foreign. Just make sure to carry your passport at all times.

Hotels will still serve alcohol as well as other places like the British Community Association (BCA). Many restaurants also continue to serve, but I suggest calling prior to make sure. For those of you that like going to nightclubs, well, those are mostly closed. However, the newly opened El Mojito’s in the Conrad Hotel said that there would be a small section open to foreigners where you could still eat, drink and dance the night away.

There are a couple of things that you should prepare for during Ramadan. For instance, you will find that some shops (e.g. Seoudi Market) and even take-out are closed during iftar. If you order from Otlob.com, you may find that the order was placed, but a significant delay in receipt can occur. Make sure that you get everything that you need prior to iftar.

Lastly, please dress conservatively. Over the years, I’ve heard many complain about the restrictions during this month, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Keep an open mind. Try to learn about the culture and take part in something that you may not have been introduced otherwise. And just remember, there are things that you can do. You just need to actively look, and you never know, you may be surprised at just how much you enjoy it.

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