How to Spend the Eid Vacation in Cairo
By Mona Ibrahim
Vacations usually conjure up images of relaxing with a cocktail by the beach, visiting a foreign land and sightseeing, or just doing something new and adventurous. Unless youre lucky enough to live by a beach, all of these ideas have to do with traveling. If you live in Cairo, and traveling is not a feasible option, there are a few things to do to enjoy the upcoming Eid vacation.
With Eid Al Adha upon us, a long vacation is on the horizon. This year, Eid gives us a 6 day vacation beginning on the 15th of November, which means plenty of time for activities! Eid Al Adha is the second Muslim holiday of the year, and the larger one. Celebrations and holidays start from the day before Eid, which celebrates the descent of Muslims from Mount Arafa, a major point in the Hajj Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. This year, the day of descent (Waqfa) falls on a Monday, meaning that Eid vacation is officially from Monday through the following Saturday, with most people having those 6 days off to celebrate and complete the traditional sacrifice rituals to celebrate when Abraham sacrificed a sheep instead of his son, by the will of God. While this Eid is the larger of the two, there are no obvious signs of it, with decorations not nearly as extensive as during Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr.
Locals with family roots in the countryside and villages will usually travel to spend this holiday with relatives there. This allows them a short break from Cairo and the stresses of city life, while also giving them the opportunity to fulfill their duty to sacrifice an animal and distribute its meat among family, friends, and the poor. As with any long vacation, anywhere in the world, the younger generation usually take advantage of the days off and travel outside of Cairo sometimes even outside the country!
If you find yourself in Cairo this year, here are a few things you might want to do to keep busy and enjoy the city:
Since Eid is in November, this year, the weather is still relatively mild in Cairo. While I wouldnt recommend enjoying the weather at a park, I would recommend spending a day at one of the hotels or country clubs near the Saqqara pyramids. As these establishments thrive on tourists, you can be sure that they will be open during the Eid holiday. Calling ahead is a must since Eid is considered a high season everywhere in the country. Once at one of these places, you can relax pool-side, enjoy a drink, and maybe even a dip in the pool depending on how brave you are. If youd like to only stay the day, then Saqqara Palm Club is a good recommendation. While they do have small rooms for overnight guests, a better option for staying the night would be Cataract Pyramids Resort, with their pool-side shisha (Egyptian water-pipe) and dessert caf. This is the perfect way to begin the Eid vacation, and one of the last chances to enjoy the great weather.
The next day can be spent taking a nice walk around the city, as Cairo is at one of its least crowded times during the Eid vacation. Walking in downtown Cairo, it becomes much easier to enjoy the sights in the emptiness of the town since the Metro is much quieter, crowds on the street are much less packed, and photos can actually be taken with minimal disruptions! The best place to really observe the beauty of a nearly-empty Cairo is the Cairo Tower in Zamalek. Make the trek to the tower, and stand in the shorter line to the elevator, make it all the way to the top of the tower, and enjoy a panoramic view of Cairo. With telescopes on deck that can make even more visible the Saqqara Pyramids, Salahdins Citadel, and the Great Pyramids of Giza, whether you do this by day or night, it will definitely be breathtaking. Nighttime is a better choice, so that you can take the stairs down two floors and enjoy a delicious dinner at the revolving restaurant, seeing Cairo from 187 meters above the city.
The third day can be spent sleeping in until the early afternoon. After you wake up, take a trip down to the Hussein area of Old Cairo. The typical throngs of tourists and locals will not be there to affect your experience as many of the shops will be closed. This is the perfect opportunity to really discover this area of Old Cairo without the distraction and disruption of street vendors attempting to convince you to purchase this Sphinx replica or that papyrus scroll. While another visit to the market of Khan Khalili will be warranted in order to purchase the souvenirs youd like to bring home, take this opportunity to observe the old Islamic architecture, the minarets, arches, and geometric designs of the mosques, as well as the old Coptic churches like the Hanging Church, and even the Ben Ezra Synagogue. After this walk, you can even have a traditional meal of stuffed pigeon (Hamam Mahshi) at a famous local branch of Farhat. The restaurant is what usually would be classified as a hole-in-the-wall, one room with three walls, side street located eatery, and it comes complete with cats walking through the alleyway and underneath your tables. Its as authentic as they get, and the stuffed pigeon is hands down the best item on the menu.
Photo of the Interior of the Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo
The fourth day can be spent by taking a taxi down to Giza towards the Pyramids, and stop at the Nazlet El Semman area behind the Pyramids. From there you can enjoy horseback riding (or camel riding if youre adventurous!) with the great stone monuments in the background. This is the ideal time to take those typically tourist photos of you capping a pyramid or joining hands together around the Pyramids. The men and boys in charge of the horses will be more than happy to snap a few photos of your group for a few pounds tip at the end of the trip. Right before sunset, order a meal to go from a restaurant, rent a felucca, and have a sunset picnic on the Nile. The best location for a felucca ride would be the Kornish of El Maadi. There is a monopoly of greenery and serenity on this end of the kornish that you wont find in Garden City, making Kornish El Maadi the ideal felucca location.
Photo of the Cairo Tower before renovations
Photo of a girl enjoying an afternoon of horseback riding at the Pyramids of Giza
Things to keep in mind while enjoying these activities are that they are better performed in a group, and keep all the smaller activities (felucca, nazlet el semman, etc.) to the second and third days of the vacation, as the smaller establishments are closed during the beginning of Eid.
All in all, enjoy Eid!
Last Updated: June 11th, 2011