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Drinking In Cairo During The Holy Month Of Ramadan


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lonna Muhammad



In the bustling city of Cairo, a metropolis known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan brings about a unique transformation. As the majority of the population observes the sacred month of fasting, various aspects of daily life, including drinking habits, undergo significant changes.


Ramadan is considered the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, symbolizing a time of introspection, prayer, and self-discipline for Muslims worldwide. The streets of Cairo are adorned with colorful lights and decorations, while the air is filled with a sense of reverence and tranquility. During this time, Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, focusing on spiritual growth and acts of charity.


While fasting is a key pillar of Ramadan, it also leads to a shift in the drinking culture of Cairo. The consumption of alcohol, which is relatively common in the city, becomes a topic of discussion and debate. Muslims adhere to strict rules during Ramadan, and traditional values influence the way they perceive alcohol and its consumption.


It is important to note that Cairo is a diverse city with people from various religious and cultural backgrounds. While the majority of Egyptians are Muslims, there are also Coptic Christians and other religious minorities. This diversity contributes to a multifaceted drinking culture in the city, which manifests differently during the holy month of Ramadan.


The Significance of Ramadan in Cairo

Ramadan holds immense cultural and religious significance in Cairo. It is a month that not only strengthens the bond within the Muslim community but also fosters a sense of unity and compassion among people of different backgrounds. The fasting period is viewed as an opportunity for spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and acts of charity.


For the Muslim population in Cairo, Ramadan is a time of heightened devotion and increased participation in religious rituals. Mosques fill with worshippers for daily prayers, and the recitation of the Quran takes on a special importance. Families come together to break their fast with an evening meal known as iftar, which is a time of celebration and communal gathering.


In addition to the spiritual significance, Ramadan also plays a crucial role in strengthening social ties. Cairo buzzes with a palpable energy as families and friends come together to share meals, exchange gifts, and extend acts of kindness to those in need. The practice of giving charity, known as Zakat, is particularly emphasized during this month, as Muslims are encouraged to support their less fortunate brethren.


Moreover, Cairo’s food culture experiences a transformation during Ramadan. As the sun sets, the city’s streets come alive with bustling food stalls and marketplaces offering a variety of traditional dishes and desserts. From the delectable koshari, a flavorful mix of rice, lentils, pasta, and tangy tomato sauce, to the sweet treats like konafa and qatayef, Ramadan brings a unique gastronomic experience to the people of Cairo.


The Rules and Traditions of Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in Cairo adhere to a set of rules and traditions that guide their behavior and daily activities. These practices are deeply rooted in Islamic teachings and help individuals to purify their minds and souls.


The primary rule of Ramadan is fasting, known as sawm. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims abstain from all food and drink, including water. This period of self-restraint serves as a reminder of the importance of gratitude, self-discipline, and empathy towards those who are less fortunate. It is seen as a way to purify the body and soul, redirecting focus towards spiritual growth and reflection.


In addition to fasting, Muslims also observe various other traditions during Ramadan. Taraweeh, a special night prayer performed after the obligatory evening prayer, is a common practice. Muslims gather in mosques to recite the Quran in congregation, seeking spiritual enlightenment and connecting with their faith.


Another important tradition is the recitation and study of the Quran. Many individuals strive to complete the entire reading of the Quran during the month of Ramadan, dividing it into smaller portions for daily recitation. This practice not only strengthens their knowledge of the holy book but also enhances their spiritual connection with it.


Acts of charity play a significant role during Ramadan. Muslims are encouraged to give to those in need, whether it be through monetary contributions, providing meals to the less fortunate, or engaging in acts of kindness. Giving charity, known as Zakat, is considered a means of purifying one’s wealth and purging the heart from materialistic desires.


Furthermore, the month of Ramadan is marked by increased family and community bonding. Families come together for iftar, the evening meal to break the fast. This meal is often a grand spread of delicious dishes, symbolizing unity, and gratitude. Sharing meals with neighbors, friends, and relatives is also a common practice, fostering a sense of camaraderie and inclusivity.


Overall, the rules and traditions of Ramadan in Cairo provide a framework for spiritual growth, self-discipline, and acts of kindness. They serve as a reminder of the importance of faith, gratitude, and compassion, bringing the community closer and reinforcing the values that define the holy month.


Drinking Culture in Cairo

Cairo has a diverse and evolving drinking culture, influenced by both religious and cultural factors. While Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol, Egypt, including Cairo, has a significant non-Muslim population and a growing number of establishments that serve alcohol.


Alcohol consumption in Cairo is prevalent, with a range of options available, including local beers, imported wines, and spirits. Many restaurants, bars, and hotels cater to the demand for alcoholic beverages, particularly in areas frequented by tourists and expatriates.


However, it is important to note that the consumption of alcohol is faced with certain cultural perceptions and sensitivities in Cairo. Islam, the predominant religion in Egypt, prohibits the consumption of alcohol as it is believed to cloud the mind and impair judgment. As a result, Muslims in Cairo generally abstain from alcohol and uphold their religious beliefs.


Despite these religious restrictions, Cairo’s drinking culture is influenced by the country’s rich history and cosmopolitan nature. Egyptians have a long-standing tradition of socializing and enjoying local beverages such as arak (a traditional anise-flavored spirit) and hibiscus-infused tea. These non-alcoholic drinks are commonly shared among friends and family during gatherings or on special occasions.


Moreover, with the increase in international tourism and the influence of Western cultures, Cairo has seen the emergence of modern establishments that offer a wide range of alcoholic beverages. Some neighborhoods, such as Zamalek and Maadi, are known for their vibrant bar scenes, attracting locals and tourists alike.


Cairo’s drinking culture is also influenced by the concept of “ahwa,” traditional Egyptian coffeehouses. These establishments serve a variety of hot beverages, including tea and coffee, and provide a space for socialization and relaxation. While alcohol is not typically served in ahwas, they remain an integral part of Cairo’s cultural fabric.


Overall, Cairo’s drinking culture reflects the diversity of the city, with a mixture of traditional non-alcoholic beverages, religious restrictions on alcohol consumption for Muslims, and a growing availability and acceptance of alcoholic beverages for non-Muslims and tourists. Understanding and respecting these cultural nuances is crucial for visitors to Cairo.


The Impact of Ramadan on Drinking Habits

The holy month of Ramadan has a significant impact on drinking habits in Cairo, both in terms of the consumption of alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic alternatives. As a month of fasting and heightened religious devotion, Ramadan brings about changes in social dynamics and cultural practices surrounding drinking in the city.


For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of self-discipline, abstinence, and spiritual reflection. During this month, the majority of practicing Muslims in Cairo strictly adhere to the Islamic teachings and abstain from consuming alcohol. The act of fasting itself reinforces the concept of self-control, and Muslims often strive to maintain a pure and focused mindset throughout the entirety of Ramadan.


As a result, the consumption of alcoholic beverages significantly decreases among the Muslim population in Cairo during Ramadan. The cultural and religious significance of the month encourages individuals to prioritize spiritual growth, prayer, and acts of charity, redirecting their focus away from indulgence in worldly pleasures, including alcohol.


However, it is important to note that non-Muslims and tourists in Cairo may still have access to alcohol during Ramadan, as some establishments cater to their needs. Hotels, bars, and restaurants that primarily serve non-Muslim clientele may continue to offer alcoholic beverages, albeit with certain restrictions and considerations. It is common practice for such establishments to either close off their alcohol-serving areas or operate discreetly out of respect for the cultural and religious sensitivities during this time.


Moreover, the decline in alcohol consumption during Ramadan has led to an increase in the popularity of non-alcoholic alternatives. Cairo experiences a surge in demand for refreshing and hydrating beverages such as fresh juices, mocktails, and traditional drinks like jallab and tamarind juice. These non-alcoholic options are enjoyed during iftar (the evening meal to break the fast) and suhoor (the pre-dawn meal).


The impact of Ramadan on drinking habits in Cairo goes beyond the temporary abstinence from alcohol. It fosters a sense of community and shared experiences, as people of all backgrounds join together to respect and understand the religious devotion of their Muslim neighbors. The focus shifts towards spiritual reflection, charitable acts, and strengthening social connections.


Overall, Ramadan brings about a significant change in drinking habits in Cairo, with a noticeable decrease in the consumption of alcohol among the Muslim population. However, the city continues to cater to the needs of non-Muslims and tourists, offering alternative beverages and creating spaces that respect the cultural and religious sensitivities of the holy month.


Places to Drink in Cairo During Ramadan

While the consumption of alcohol is generally subdued during Ramadan in Cairo, there are still places that cater to non-Muslims and tourists who wish to indulge in a drink or two. These establishments understand the cultural sensitivities of the holy month and often operate discreetly or make adjustments to their offerings to accommodate the observance of Ramadan. Here are some places where you can enjoy a drink in Cairo during Ramadan:

  1. Hotels: Many hotels in Cairo have bars and lounges that continue to serve alcoholic beverages during Ramadan. These establishments often have designated areas where alcohol is served, ensuring that guests can enjoy their drinks in a respectful and discreet manner.
  2. Restaurants: Some high-end restaurants in Cairo may have permits to serve alcohol during Ramadan. These establishments provide a more sophisticated and relaxed environment for enjoying a drink while maintaining cultural sensitivity.
  3. Embassy Clubs and Expat Areas: Certain areas in Cairo, such as Maadi and Zamalek, are known for their expat communities. Here, you can find bars and pubs that cater to the non-Muslim population and tourists, offering a variety of alcoholic beverages.
  4. Private Events and Gatherings: Private parties and events held in homes or private venues may serve alcohol during Ramadan. These gatherings are often intimate and limited to invitees who respect and understand the cultural sensitivities surrounding the holy month.

It is important to note that during Ramadan, some establishments may modify their operating hours and practices out of respect for the observance. The availability of alcohol may be limited, and it is advisable to check with specific venues beforehand to ensure they are still serving during the holy month.


While enjoying a drink during Ramadan in Cairo, it is essential to be mindful of the cultural sensitivities and customs surrounding the holy month. Showing respect and understanding for the religious observances of the majority Muslim population is crucial, as Ramadan is a time of introspection, self-discipline, and spiritual reflection for them.


Cairo offers a diverse range of experiences during Ramadan, providing opportunities for non-Muslims and tourists to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while still being sensitive to the cultural context of the holy month.


Alternatives to Alcohol During Ramadan

For individuals who choose to abstain from alcohol or prefer non-alcoholic options during Ramadan in Cairo, there are a variety of alternatives to enjoy. These alternatives not only provide refreshing and flavorful options but also complement the spirit of the holy month. Here are some popular alternatives to alcohol during Ramadan:

  1. Traditional Ramadan Drinks: Cairo is known for its wide array of traditional non-alcoholic Ramadan beverages. These include refreshing options such as jallab, a sweet concoction made from dates, grape molasses, and rose water, or karkadeh, a tangy hibiscus tea. These traditional drinks are widely available and can be found in cafes, markets, and street vendors throughout the city.
  2. Fruit Juices: Freshly squeezed fruit juices are an excellent alternative to alcoholic beverages during Ramadan. Cairo offers a range of juice bars and stalls that offer a variety of delicious, seasonal fruit juices. From mango and watermelon to citrus blends, these juices provide a burst of flavor and hydration.
  3. Mint Lemonade: Mint lemonade is a popular choice for a refreshing and cooling beverage during Ramadan. It combines freshly squeezed lemon juice, mint leaves, sugar, and water to create a tangy and invigorating drink. Many cafes and restaurants in Cairo offer this thirst-quenching option during the holy month.
  4. Mocktails: Mocktails, or non-alcoholic cocktails, are crafted to mimic the flavor and presentation of classic cocktails without the inclusion of alcohol. Cairo’s bars and restaurants often offer a selection of creative and flavorful mocktails during Ramadan, incorporating ingredients such as fresh fruits, herbs, and syrups.
  5. Infused Water: Infused water, featuring combinations of fruits, herbs, and spices, is a refreshing and healthy option during Ramadan. Varieties like cucumber and mint, lemon and ginger, or strawberry and basil provide a flavorful twist to plain water and offer a hydrating alternative to alcoholic beverages.

These alternatives to alcohol during Ramadan not only provide a diverse range of flavors but also align with the principles of self-discipline, hydration, and refreshment that are emphasized during the holy month. They can be enjoyed during iftar gatherings, suhoor meals, or as a refreshing treat throughout the day.


It is essential to remember that Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and abstaining from worldly pleasures. By opting for these non-alcoholic alternatives, individuals can fully immerse themselves in the cultural practices and traditions of the holy month while staying refreshed and hydrated.


Challenges and Controversies Surrounding Drinking in Ramadan

Drinking during Ramadan in Cairo can be a subject of controversy and poses certain challenges due to the religious and cultural context surrounding the holy month. While some individuals and establishments may choose to continue serving alcohol, it is important to be aware of the potential sensitivities and respect the observance of Ramadan. Here are some of the challenges and controversies surrounding drinking during Ramadan in Cairo:

  1. Religious Sensitivities: As a predominantly Muslim country, Egypt and its capital city of Cairo have a deep respect for religious values. Ramadan holds immense religious significance, and the consumption of alcohol during this holy month contradicts the principles of self-discipline and abstinence. Consuming alcohol in public or in plain view during Ramadan can be seen as offensive or disrespectful by some Muslims.
  2. Cultural Perceptions: Apart from religious sensitivities, there are cultural perceptions surrounding alcohol consumption in Cairo. Traditional values and customs shape the perception of drinking, especially during Ramadan. While non-Muslim residents and tourists may have different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, it is important to be mindful and respectful of the local culture when it comes to drinking during the holy month.
  3. Unequal Access: Although some establishments continue to serve alcohol during Ramadan, there may be limitations or restrictions on availability. Some venues may choose to limit their alcohol offerings, operate discreetly, or even temporarily close their alcohol-serving sections out of respect for the observance. This can pose challenges for individuals seeking access to alcoholic beverages during Ramadan.
  4. Controversial Public Behavior: In the context of Ramadan, consuming alcohol in public spaces or engaging in excessive public drinking can be perceived as disrespectful and offensive. It is important to maintain a sense of modesty and restraint, understanding the cultural and religious significance of the holy month.

It is crucial to navigate the challenges and controversies surrounding drinking during Ramadan in Cairo with sensitivity and respect. Being mindful of local customs and religious observances is important for maintaining good relations and fostering a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances.


By understanding and respecting the religious and cultural sensitivities, both Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist harmoniously during this sacred month, creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.



In the bustling city of Cairo, the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan introduces a shift in the drinking culture and habits of its diverse population. Ramadan holds great religious and cultural significance, symbolizing a time of spiritual reflection, self-discipline, and acts of charity for Muslims in Cairo. As a result, the consumption of alcohol decreases among the Muslim population, adhering to the prohibition outlined in Islamic teachings.


Cairo’s drinking culture is complex and multifaceted, influenced by both religious beliefs and cultural practices. While alcohol is commonly consumed outside of Ramadan, the holy month brings about changes in social dynamics and perceptions surrounding drinking. Non-Muslims and tourists can still find establishments that serve alcohol during Ramadan, but it is important to be respectful of the cultural sensitivities and customs associated with the observance of the holy month.


Alternatives to alcohol during Ramadan are plentiful in Cairo, with a variety of traditional drinks, fresh juices, mocktails, and infused waters available. These alternatives not only provide refreshing options but also align with the values of self-discipline, hydration, and spiritual introspection emphasized during Ramadan.


Challenges and controversies surrounding drinking during Ramadan in Cairo stem from religious sensitivities, cultural perceptions, access limitations, and the importance of maintaining modest and respectful behavior in public spaces. By being mindful of these factors, individuals can navigate the complexities of drinking during the holy month with sensitivity and respect.


In conclusion, the holy month of Ramadan brings about significant changes in Cairo’s drinking culture. The majority of the Muslim population abstains from consuming alcohol, emphasizing self-discipline, prayer, and acts of charity. Non-Muslims and tourists can still find establishments that serve alcohol but must be aware of and respect the cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding Ramadan. Ultimately, understanding and embracing the traditions, values, and customs of Cairo during this sacred month foster a sense of unity, respect, and appreciation for the diversity that enriches the city’s vibrant drinking culture.