What is the best time to travel to Egypt?
For most people, who are not used to excessive heat, the best time to visit Egypt is between October and May, though this also coincides with Egypt’s main peak season: Christmas and New Year. The days are still sunny and hot, making it a lot better for people to deal with, and visiting the historic sites is a lot more pleasurable than during the summer months.
The Christmas and New Year season is a really good time to visit, though the evening temperatures drop low enough to make warmer clothes a must, especially on Nile cruises. Being classed as high season the rates for hotels and cruises do tend to be higher, but this is offset by the special events that are laid on for visitors during this period.
From May to October it is a lot hotter, especially in Upper Egypt (basically anywhere south of Cairo) and the afternoon temperatures can easily exceed 50°C. This is especially true in the more desert areas, which just happens to be where most of the tourist attractions are situated (Abu Simbel is a prime example). One huge advantage of visiting during these four months is that the sites do tend to be quieter, allowing for better photographic opportunities and more peace to explore.
Having said this, the “springtime” period from mid-March to mid-April is often busy, with many tourists braving the heat to spend a week or two during their Easter holidays: Egypt’s other main peak season! The one disadvantage, if it can really be called that, is that the annual sandstorms, known as the Khamsin, tend to arrive at this time, though it is not as bad as some people try to make out. In reality, it only lasts for a few days, and only for a few hours during those days. It is easy to cope with and many people do not even realise that it is happening.
Another fantastic time to visit Egypt is during Ramadan, though some people tend to feel it is time to avoid for some strange reason. Because of the difference between the Islamic calendar (which is used for Ramadan) and the Gregorian calendar, which is what the “western” world uses, the holy month of Ramadan does move forward each year by about 2 or 3 weeks, but this is all that changes: it is still celebrated in the same way every year.
As a visitor to Egypt during Ramadan, you will not really notice much difference, although alcohol is not as freely available and most shops and sites do tend to close an hour or so earlier, but the Egyptians recognise that tourism is a major source of income and employment and so endeavour to ensure that there is not too much disruption to the usual daily routine. The vast majority of restaurants are still open during daylight hours and, with good foresight, the clocks have been moved forward, allowing for the evening’s activities to commence earlier. As soon as the sun has disappeared Muslims break their fast with a meal that is known as “iftar”, and if you are ever invited to one of these, grasp the opportunity with both hands: it is something not to be missed. Food is plentiful, especially sweet foods, and the whole experience is something you will never forget. Why some people insist on Ramadan being avoided is a total mystery!