Muslims pray 5 times a day and the time to pray is signaled by the Call to Prayer.
One of the best times to listen to the Call to Prayer is at the Fajr morning prayer. You can usually open your window and hear it echoing from many mosques across the city because there is little noise from the traffic.
You can cut and paste this link to get a monthly schedule for Cairo (prayer times change every day by a minute or two because they are based on the sunrise and sunset).
Note that the Sunrise listing is actually the END of the Fajr prayer time and you won't hear the Call to Prayer then. If you want to listen make sure you go for the time listed for Fajr.
And you can click on this link below for todays times in Cairo.
Some basic etiquette tips for socializing with practicing/conservative Muslims.
It is so hard to generalize but here are some tips:
-Assume they are more conservative than liberal and adjust to their level. It is usually easier to go more conservative for you than for them to go more liberal. This will prevent embarrassment for both sides. For example, don't bring alcohol as a gift.
-Generally wait for women (especially wearing a scarf) to take the lead in shaking hands with males. If she doesn't offer then probably she prefers not to. This goes both ways, as some men would hesitate to shake hands with a female. If a woman is wearing a face veil, don't even bother - she won't shake hands with a male.
- Don't try to approach an Egyptian female you don't know to start a conversation if you are a male. It simply isn't done for a male to approach a woman on the street and she will likely ignore you or feel embarrassed. If she is working in a store, it is fine.
-When visiting with an Egyptian couple let them designate the gender arrangements for socializing. Don't be surprised if men and women are segregated.
-Compliments on people's appearances by the opposite sex are distasteful and not considered polite manners.
-Men do not wear gold or silk so gifts like a watch or tie should be avoided.
-Put on your 'grandma' manners. Don't curse, talk about drinking, dating, sexual relationships, doing drugs etc. Do talk about family and general topics.
-You may find that people of the opposite sex avoid looking directly in your eyes. This is considered polite and respectful but is not a firm rule - just don't be surprised.
- If inviting someone to a gathering, let them know in advance if it is mixed or segregated or if there will be alcohol. They may choose not to come but don't be offended. It is not personal.
- People will usually shake the hand (same gender) when greeting a new person and give kisses on each cheek when leaving.
-Flowers are for festive occasions, not funerals.
Hajj or in another word (pilgrimage)...is the 2nd celebration in the Islamic calendar.
On the 9th day of the Hajj month, most Muslims fast this day for it`s believed that fasting this day will wash away all sins made through the past year,in Cairo many night spots closes for the spirit of this day.......and even the ones which are open refrain from serving Alcohol for the locals and other muslims.
Next day is called Eid,which most Muslims slaughter either sheeps,goats or cows to feed the poor.......
In Egypt and some other Arabic countries call this Eid (The Big Eid) or in Arabic EL Eid El Kebeer.
Here is a picture of the sheeps the night before the Eid,,waiting and not knowing what the future hides for them.
What should I wear when visiting a mosque? This is one of the most commonly asked questions.
Men: Preferred to wear long pants. Shirt can be short sleeved or long. Shorts, while not preferred, can be worn but must come to the knee.
Women: Long pants (not capri) or ankle length skirt. Loose fitting shirt that comes to the wrist, closed neck (not v-neck). Scarf to cover hair. Most of the big tourist mosques will have robes at the door for people not dressed appropriately. Socks optional.
For both men and women: If you are wearing socks, you might want to make sure you don't have holes in them as you will probably be taking off your shoes. No one will care though.
What do I do when I go there?
Going to the mosque is an interesting and fun experience. There are a few things you might want to be aware of if you want to be polite.
There might be separate entrances/areas for men and women. At the door there might be a person who watches shoes for a small donation (like 50 piastres or 1 Egyptian pound). Otherwise there might be an area near the door to leave your shoes. If you have expensive shoes, you might want to bring a small bag with you to put them in and carry them inside with you. Don't set them on the floor of the prayer areas unless they are in a bag.
After you get inside, you will either be in a big courtyard (where you can wear shoes by the way) or in a prayer hall (where you can't). There might be a special section/room for women so men should be careful of this and not go in there. It is better to walk along the side/back walls so as not to walk/sit in front of someone praying. Definitely don't walk through the middle of a prayer line. If you are trapped, just wait for it to be done.
It is not polite to take pictures of people without their permission, especially women.
Don't be intimidated. If you do anything 'wrong' no one will be overly upset - they know you are a tourist. If you show an interest, they will probably want to sit and talk with you.
Islam is the main religion of Egypt with almost 90% of it's population practicing the religion. Other religions are Christianity, who form about another 10%. The city of Cairo has very beautiful Mosques. I noticed many of the young people are very religious and offer prayer at least twice a day!
I also noticed after talking to a few educated young people, they hardly have any knowledge about other religions practiced in the other parts of the world. I also noticed, they are very tolerant abouth the other religions!
The Mulid always falls on a Monday, but the date shifts according to the Lunar Calendar. This year ,2006, it falls on Monday 10 April.
Different countries in the Arab world celebrate in different ways.
In Cairo I noticed the shops that normally sell confectionary and pastries, have changed their window displays to the traditional sweets produced for the Mulid. These are normally sugar based with nuts in [ peanuts, chick peas, pigeon peas, sesame seeds] , or coconut ice, or Turkish Delight. In other Moslem countries sweets are made in the form of a bride. [In Sudan a bright red colour], or horsemen etc. In Cairo today there are dolls dressed as brides as part of the decor, or hanging in ordinary shops.
Originally there would have been several days before the actual day, where men gathered in tents to chant religious verses, beat drums or tambourines.
The town of Tanta in Egypt was famous for its Mulid holiday festivities.
In Cairo people go visiting their relatives.
The holy month of Ramadan is when all Muslims around the world fast from food and drink from dawn until the sun set.
In Cairo it is so special because the rich people tend to set tables with very nutritious food for the poor who can not afford to have any breakfast at sunset.
You will see tables set just before the sunset prayers all over the city side walks.Which is called(Mawa`ed el Rahman)in the Egyptian accent.or in another word,(the merceful Lord table).
They even have volinteers to serve the poor people while they break their fasting,it`s something I did not see before,not in any other Islamic country.
I have visited Cairo during the holy month of Ramadan - and I am quite happy I did.
Despite the fact that some locals might be a bit more irritable?, it was a special experience for me.
It felt as if people made me part of what they were doing, and I did not eat or drink on street, out of respect.
But what a great atmosphere after 6 (sunset)! [Iftar = breaking the fast with an evening meal]
Cairo comes alive and the buzz doesn't stop until he next morning.
I would visit any Islamic country again during Ramadan.
When the holy month of Ramandan starts many restaurants open til late to serve the second meal,which is called Sohoor.
most restaurants change their decor to fit the spirit of Ramadan,and play old classic Arabic music,some even have live music.
Here is a setting of a cafe at the First Mall part of the Four Seasons hotel, they changed the whole table settings,you can check my shopping tips of the first mall to see the diffirence.
One of the sponcers of this tent is Wadi Degla(check my sports tips of Cairo).
Many Asian and African countries, including Egypt, are predominantly Muslim, so the religious sites you are most likely to encounter, are, predictably, mosques. This is a brief tip of advice, written from the point of view of a non-Muslim, female traveler (yours truly!!!):
- Do dress modestly, covering arms, legs, shoulders and the like, no frivolous dressing will be allowed. Hire the modest dress if needed;
- Check whether you are allowed into the mosque at all, since most of them admit you only into the courtyard, and some do not admit non-Muslims at all. However, in several countries you may be able to visit the interiors of many mosques;
- Respect the boundaries laid and do not attempt to enter further (I saw such a thing once, and it did arouse ill-feeling);
- If possible try to avoid going even to the courtyard on Friday afternoon, since I remember this is the most important praying time of the week;
- If you are curious, feel free to ask questions (though not of people hurrying to pray) and most likely you will be answered: I’ve always found people proud of their culture and heritage and ready to explain it;
- Do not criticize things we in Europe and in the West might (such as separate praying space for men and women), for such are the customs of the land and mosques are the least appropriate places for such topics.
This advice is based only on common sense, but it allowed me to see something of the mosques and learn loads of interesting info on Muslim countries, their religion, and culture. Really helped me when we had a general education class on religions at University:))
We never got problems with the locals.
As it is an islamic country I think it is a good idea to show not too much skin...
We always wore shirts with long sleeves and long trousers (an excellent protection against heat and sun) and were accepted (even in mosques, which are full of excellent artwork).
While I enjoyed going with my wife and I could tell when we kissed and held hands some people felt uncomfortable. We didn't stop doing it but we tried to limit since this is something that isn't widely accepted in the their Islamic culture.
Egypt is fast becoming a popular tourist attraction and as such tourist's are ignoring the very culture they have come to see. Please dress with modesty in all areas apart from the beach where bikini's ans swimming trunks are allowed, and remember this is a country of Islam and respect their religion.
One thing you will quickly notice in Cairo is the number of minarets as this is an islamic country. You will hear the call to prayer several times a day and probably, like me, miss the melodic tones when you leave. Though I didn't miss the really early one that would jolt me awake from my sleep. There was a minaret only two buildings away from our hotel and it was quite loud. The one pictured is at the Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein by Khan el-Khalili.
I got to take some picuters of free breakfast for the poor...prepared by charity organisations.
The pictures are not great as I couldnt stop the heavy traffic passing infront of me.
This was in Zamalek area.