Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Mohammed and is celebrated for the whole of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the dates according to the western calendar become earlier by about 11 days each year. For the date of the start of Ramadan this year, see the Culture, Religion and Language page.
The most noticeable feature of Ramadan is that faithful Moslems, who make up the vast majority of the population of Egypt, do not let anything pass between their lips or into any other part of their bodies between sunrise and sunset for the whole month. That includes not only water and food but also anything else, such as a cigarette. Some people are exempt, including people who are sick, nursing mothers and young children. Older children fast for half the day.
At sunset the faithful wait to hear confirmation from the local mosque that the sun has set and then take their first food and drink ('Iftar') since before sunrise. This meal is often taken communally in the street, accompanied by singing, lanterns, and other decorations.
Effect on tourism
During Ramadan, some commercial timetables may be adjusted to allow more time for prayer and reflection. Together with the fasting of the faithful, this can affect normal local lifestyles and can reduce restaurant and bar facilities slightly. This may make some people avoid going to Islamic countries during Ramadan, but really it shouldn't. In practice it doesn't make a huge amount of difference to normal routines in Luxor. In fact the extra colour in the evenings at Iftar, and especially at the end of Ramadan, make it a reason to go to Luxor during Ramadan rather than a reason to avoid going during Ramadan.
Tourists sites will be open as normal. Virtually all of the stalls, including refreshment stalls, will be open. A very few of the vendors' stalls at the sites may close for a while during the day to allow time for prayer, and at sunset for Iftar.
Train timetables are the same. The taxi-buses continue to run. Private hire drivers continue to work. They do not usually stop for Iftar, but you may notice them listening out for the signal from the mosque and breaking open a lunchbox or taking a few snack items, typically dates. You could invite him to stop for Iftar if you like, but most will keep going.
Hotels will operate as normal. Some hotels (such as the St Joseph) are run by Christians. Others manage to roster Christian or other non-moslems to the day shifts. Even where moslems are working, by and large you will not notice any difference.
Food and drink will continue to be served. The only exception is that alcohol will be harder to come by and strict moslems will not serve it at all. This does not tend to affect drinks at hotels, but in smaller restaurants you may have to order a non-alcoholic drink.
Smoking by tourists is not restricted any more during Ramadan than it is at other times of the year.
Commercial places, such as shops and banks, may keep different hours to allow time for prayer and for breaking the fast at sunset. You can usually complete all your banking and shopping but the hours of opening may be more limited. This includes some, but not many, market stalls. The time when you are most likely to find banks and shops closed and services unavailable is around noon, for the main prayers of the day, and at sunset, for Iftar.
At the end of the month of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) there is a feast and a great deal of partying.
Should you change your own behaviour?
Tourists are not expected to observe Ramadan. You can eat, drink, smoke and do all other normal tourist things at the sites, in the town and everywhere else as normal, although alcohol may be a little more difficult to find outside the hotels. Out of respect to local people, some tourists would not to be too blatant about eating or drinking in public places during Ramadan, or smoking in a taxi, where the driver may be a smoker who is denying himself during the day, but really that is a matter for the individual.
Updated April 2010