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Culture And Festivals Of Cairo

Posted on November 5, 2009 | Fascinating CitiesOne Comment

With a history of varied civilizations, the Egyptian culture is rich and vibrant. The way of life in the city of Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, reflects this.

Religious beliefs, night life, old and new shopping centers, remains of old structures and new areas to hang out at, all this and more are woven together, attracting tourist for a feast of experiences.

Islam has a notable contribution in the city’s culture in all its forms – dance, music, food, structures to name a few. Arabic and culture from the neighboring communities influence the way of living in Cairo and in fact, whole of Egypt.

A number of cultural centers, such as the Cairo Opera House or the National Cultural Center of Cairo offer a platform for you to experience the Cairo life. These places hold concerts, dance operas, showcase theatres etc. These centers also hold workshops, lectures and seminars on varied subjects like films, music, exhibitions, displays and other cultural events.

cairo opera house

The Cairo Opera House is the city’s main venue for drama, dance, film and music. Located in the National Cultural Centre in the Gezira Exhibition Grounds on Gezira Island, it is one of seven theatres (one open-air) and concert halls in the complex, offering a busy programme of opera, dance and music across the genres. You could check its website for details and schedule or itinerary around the events. You could also check the timings for events in your language.
If you are the one with a quest for the city’s ancient history, there are a number of Museums in Cairo and around the city to quench your thirst. The two main Museums the visit to which you should include in your itinerary while touring Cairo include the Egyptian Antique Museum, in the center of the city and the Boat Museum, near the Great Pyramid of Giza. While the former has 1, 20,000 artifacts spanning from the earliest dynasties of Egyptian history to the Roman era, the latter has a wooden boat preserved that was found near the Great Pyramid.

The art scene is thriving here; with a number of galleries you would enjoy paying a visit to, such as The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Nothing reflects the culture of a place much better than its cuisine. In Cairo, the authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and the contemporary food style is available in hotels and restaurants across the city, reflecting the blend of traditional with modern.

Pyramids of Giza


Cultural centers like the Cairo Opera House have more of performances of Western classical music, though classical Arab music is not neglected. You could also visit the Arabic Music Institute for performances by troupes such as the Umm Kalthoum Classical Arabic Music Troupe. For a Jazz performance, it would be a good idea to visit Cairo Jazz Club, Zamalek, just before Sphinx Square. Egyptian Center for Culture & Art has performances of Egyptian Traditional music.


Once again, the Opera House stages all kind of theatres by both international and local performers. There is an open air theatre as well.


While not a major form of art, dance is incorporated in hotels as entertainment packages for their guests. Dance is performed by troupes in various forms- Sufi to belly dancing. For instance, The Al Taura Troupe offers free performances twice a week at the Al-Ghouri Mausoleum, near Khan el Khalili market.

Belly dancing is also presented for guests on dinner boats organized by hotels.

cairo nightclub


The city of Cairo was once known as the Hollywood of the Middle East for the number of Arabic films made here. Cinemas generally show Hollywood blockbusters with Arabic subtitles.

Literary scene

Naguib Mahfouz, the Noble Laureate in Literature of 1988, represent the contribution of Cairo in Literature. His books that glimpse into the Cairo life have been compared to the novels of Dickens and Balzac. The Cairo Trilogy – Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street – is his masterpiece. There is a coffee shop in Khal el-Kahlili market named after him, which is still the meeting point of artists and writers. Nawal el-Saadawi, one of Cairo’s leading women writers, the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and has written plays, short stories and social studies as well as novels. Her most famous book, The Hidden Face of Eve (1977) is a non-fiction book dealing with women in the Arab world. Because of her feminist approaches, she has not been very popular in her own city.

Cairo has always held a fascination for British authors and both Olivia Manning (The Levant Trilogy, 1978 onwards) and Penelope Lively (Oleander, Jacaranda, 1994) have used the city as a background for their fiction.

Cultural magazines like Al-Ahram Weekly and Egypt Today make an effort to keep the rich culture of Cairo alive by speaking about them. Their sites, website: website of The Middle East Times , carry plenty of information on the details of the cultural events, keeping people abreast with Cairo’s cultural scene.

Festivals in Cairo

The nation’s capital, Cairo, has innumerable festivals throughout the year which both the local people and the tourists should look forward to. The Book Fair held in January on Cairo exhibition grounds, not only has international and regional publishers, local people get attracted to it also because of the discounts offered by some publications.

March is the time for religious festivals with street performances, markets, music, dancing, fireworks and processions. Similar festivities occur during the Moulid of El-Hussein (August) and Athura (October) at various locations.

In August, the Cairo International Song Festival invites music and songs from around the world, again at various locations. September is the time for taking the pleasure from theatrical experiments in drama and performance, incorporating digital media in the Experimental Theatre Festival held across the city.
The Pyramids of Giza play host to the Pharaohs’ Rally in early October. Spread over eleven days, the rally is 3,000 kilometer endurance motor race. It begins at the pyramids and plots a circular route through Egypt’s Western Desert.

The annual Arabic Music Festival in November is the stage for famous singers and musicians from around the Middle East to congregate here and enthrall their audience.

Cairo International Film Festival, held in early December across the city, screens films from around the world and attracts some leading box office stars from Western and Middle Eastern cinema ac.


festival in cairo

Center of learning

Along with entertainment, Cairo is a known place for some of its center of learning. The American University in Cairo is one of Egypt’s e most prestigious educational institutes. It offers a variety of courses including Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, with English as the instruction of language.

Cairo University, one of the first universities to be established in Egypt, is also one of the reputable universities in the Middle East and Africa. The International Language Institute here offers courses in Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian dialect up to an intermediate-advanced level in an international student environment. Kalimat Language and Cultural Centre is another great center for language studies.

As the capital city of Egypt, Cairo has imbibed the ancient culture, the tradition of Egypt and reflects modernity with contemporary way of life. This is what makes Cairo a coveted, convenient, tourist destination.

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