Despite its dusty reputation, springtime in Cairo unleashes bursts of warmth and colour, from puffy oleander bushes to jacaranda trees shouting with purple blossoms. Sidewalks are shaded under blooming acacia trees, and Cairenes are happily shedding their winter coats and thick scarves for sandals and t-shirts. As the city reawakens, it’s the picture-perfect time for a visit.
Join iftar dinners during Ramadan
In 2019, the holy month of Ramadan falls in May through to the first week of June, which can make spring the best time to avoid Cairo’s notorious crowds and traffic. During Ramadan, the streets can seem sleepy during sunlight hours, but once twilight settles, the usual hum of the city cues up, with families rushing to pick up last-minute desserts on their way to one of the ubiquitous iftars, the evening meal that breaks the day’s fast. During Ramadan, iftar and suhoor, or pre-dawn, meals encompass Egyptians’ entire social calendar. Try to squeeze in at least one iftar at a fancy hotel, such as the Wust El Balad Tent at the Ritz-Carlton (roughy LE300, about US$17.30), but they book out fast, so plan ahead. You’ll find more low-key roadside iftar tables spread around the city. If you don’t mind setting a 4am alarm, you can get up before the sun to join in a suhoor meal before the day’s fasting begins.
Drop in on an arts festival
D-CAF, Cairo’s three-week Downtown Contemporary Art Festival, runs to late April, and it’s spread over multiple sites downtown. The festival fuses performing arts with film, photography and urban vision workshops run by top artists and educators from around the world. Expect cross-genre mashing, such as ‘interactive dance calligraphy performance’. Check out the concert photography workshop, which promises to teach the skill of the ‘killer shot’, or a new media arts workshop, such as the 3D projection mapping audio visual performance training. If you prefer to sit back and take in a film, save a night in mid-May for an art house film at Zawya, which hosts the Cairo Cinema Days festival, showcasing around 40 contemporary award-winning feature and documentary films from across the Arab region. The festival also screens some historic heavy hitter films and has panels and Q&A sessions with filmmakers.
Scout out contemporary Egypt in Old Cairo
Old Cairo is home to a trove of historic wonders, from the 7th-century Hanging Church of Coptic Cairo to the millennium-old Mosque of Amr Ibn Al As. But within the Fustat area of Old Cairo stands Darb 1718, an outdoor contemporary art and culture centre that in springtime weather, is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The centre hosts live music concerts, fashion, art exhibitions, open-mic nights and education workshops. This spring you can get your hands dirty with a pottery workshop and or learn about light refraction and shutter speed at a photography class. April’s hieroglyphics workshop is sure to be a hit.
Take a hike
From late March to early June, temperatures in Cairo are springtime perfection, wavering around a median 30°C. The trees are in bloom, students are finishing exams and Cairenes are all smiles and more relaxed. Take in the carefree vibe with a walk through downtown’s cluttered maze, along the breezy Corniche or around Zamalek’s leafy streets. Beware of April’s sporadic sand storms and thunderstorms; if the sky turns a dusty colour, it’s time to duck indoors.