What To Expect During Christmas in Egypt

Christmas ornaments via pixabay

The Christmas holiday season certainly is a popular time for tourists and travelers visiting Egypt. Lots of people from colder climates love spending their winter vacation someplace warm and sunny, making Egypt an ideal destination for holiday travel plans. For many, this is actually the best time to visit Egypt! Thinking of spending Christmas in Egypt? If so, here’s everything you need to know!

Christmas tree via unsplash

What’s Egypt Weather Like in Winter?

Everyone’s number one question seems to be about the weather. Certainly Egypt is still sunny this type of year, but is it warm enough to enjoy the beach? If you’re planning to head the Red Sea, then yes – it’s still warm!

Average temperatures for coastal areas around the Red Sea are around 23° C (73° F) during the day and 12° C (54° F) at night. Water sports are still incredibly popular this time of year, as the average temperature of the Red Sea stays around 23° C (73° F) degree. That might not be warm enough for a casual swim, but with a wetsuit (readily available for rent in most areas) – December and January are still great months for snorkeling and diving!

Beach weather or not???

The average temperatures away from the sea, in cities such as Cairo, are a bit cooler. Expect an average of 20° C (68° F) during the day and 10° C (50° F) during the night. As this is a desert climate, Egypt temperatures drop significantly when the sun sets (which is around 5 pm this time of year), so warm clothes are definitely needed. You’ll probably see Egyptians wearing heavy winter jackets, boots, and hats, because December and January are as cold as it gets around here! But if you’re traveling from someplace *actually* cold: a light sweater or jacket and maybe a scarf will be sufficient. 😜

Winter is also considered the “rainy” season in Egypt, meaning there might be a light rain shower or two every couple of weeks throughout the winter months. Though the rain never lasts long, the water still puddles and floods the roads quite quickly because of the lack of a good drainage system. So if you do happen to be in Egypt in December of January when it rains, be prepared to have to step or drive around lots of standing water, and for people to lose their ever-lovin’ minds, over even the teeniest bit of rain.

Nativity Scene
Nativity Scene via Pixabay 

Christmas in January

Some people get a bit confused upon visiting Egypt over December 24th and 25th, when Christmas is celebrated in the West. Anyone searching for signs of Christmas on the 24-25, is actually a week or so too early. In Egypt, December 25th is just like any other normal day. People go to work, businesses remain open, even some schools remain in session. This is because the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church community, like many Eastern Orthodox Churches around the globe, celebrates Christmas on January 6th and 7th — not in December. (Sunday, Jan. 7 is the day recognized as Epiphany Sunday, or Three Kings’ Day, in Western Christian traditions.) In Arabic, Christmas is called Eid Al Milad,عيد الميلاد) – The Feast of the Birth.

Christmas Sunday, or Eid Al Milad, is recognized as one of the national holidays in Egypt (remember that Sunday – Thursday are working days in Egypt; weekends are Friday and Saturday). Most offices and businesses remain closed all day.

If you do find yourself in Egypt on December 24-25, wishing to observe or celebrate the holiday the way you are familiar with, you do have a few options. There are a handful of Protestant churches serving mostly foreign (Western) congregations in Cairo that hold English services on either the 24th or the 25th, including St. Andrew’s United Church of Cairo, Maadi Community Church, Church of St. John (also in Maadi), and All Saints Cathedral (in Zamalek).

You could also spend part of the holiday visiting the ancient church built on the cave believed to be where the holy family sought shelter when they fled to Egypt shortly after Jesus’ birth.

Santa Claus
Ho Ho Ho! Image via Pixabay

Egyptian Santa Claus

Here’s another head-scratcher for a lot of Westerners who find themselves in Egypt over the Christmas holiday. Santa Claus is a familiar character in Egypt – but not as a Christmas figure. In Egypt, Santa is more of the New Year mascot. Santa figurines and decorations are put out in late December and stay on display for most of the month of January. On January 31, street sellers offer every car that passes by the option of buying a festive Santa hat, as well as the ubiquitous new year glasses. (Can we all agree that 2019 is going to be a real awkward one to try to fit into an oversized-glasses design? Next year – 2020 – is going to be so much easier!)

New Year 2019
Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve

Since we’re on the subject, what about New Year’s Eve celebrations? New Year’s Eve in Egypt isn’t a widely observed “holiday.” A few of the biggest hotels generally offer some kind of celebration or party, but NYE isn’t quite the same ordeal it is elsewhere. Outside of maybe buying a Santa hat or goofy glasses just for kicks, most Egyptians don’t really bother celebrating on the 31st. For Muslims, Islamic New Year is celebrated at a different time in the year; meanwhile, many Egyptian Coptic Christians are in the midst of their pre-Christmas fast, so a night of partying and revelry just won’t cut it.

Holiday Markets in Egypt

Here is just a short list of some of the markets, bazaars, and other events you can find around Cairo during the 2018 holiday season.

Any other questions you have about Christmas in Egypt? Be sure to ask in the comments below!

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