Why Should You Visit Egypt During the Spring Festival as a Solo Female Traveller?
Most people prefer visiting Egypt during the winter season as this isn’t the peak tourist season. And we all know that this country is known for its rich culture and is full of energy and activities all year round.
Sham el-Nessim, aka the Spring Festival, is a national festival celebrated every year in the country. I would say that this is one of the many reasons to travel solo to Egypt as you get to experience this ancient festival, which is incredible. You also get a lot more opportunities to interact with the local people and understand the culture of the country in great depth.
In this blog, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Spring Festival and various reasons why you should plan your solo trip to Egypt around this time. Read on.
When is Sham el-Nessim, aka the Spring Festival?
Sham el-Nessim is a national festival celebrated at the arrival of the spring season. It is one of the oldest known festivals and has been celebrated for more than 4700 years now. It usually falls on the day after Easter following the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
As per the Gregorian calendar, which most of the world follows, Easter falls anywhere from late March to late April. However, Coptic Christians celebrate Easter as per the Julian calendar, which is celebrated much later. So, Sham el-Nessim is usually observed from late April to early May. However, as Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox, Sham el-Nessim is always celebrated on a Monday.
What do people do During Sham el-Nessim?
Getting together, picnics, fairs, rides, games, and a fun time
Unlike most other festivals that are celebrated at home, Sham el-Nessim is celebrated with relatives who come together by meeting for picnics in open areas like gardens, parks, beaches, zoos, or sometimes, by the banks of the Nile. One can find many other people at these places having a fun time with their folks. On this day, you can hardly find any Egyptians at home, as all of them are out having a great time with their friends and family.
There are various fairs put up during the festival where one can learn more about the festival. Other than this, there are multiple shops from where you can purchase unique items related to the festival. You can also take home some souvenirs from here.
There are also many rides and games for children to participate in. You can see these children compete at competitions in a friendly spirit and also win some gifts and prizes. All in all, the atmosphere is chilled out where people, irrespective of age, gender, and religion, enjoy themselves to the fullest.
Celebrations, local food, and traditions
Children have fun and enjoy themselves at the games and rides. But what about young adults and old people? Well, they play music, sing, and dance to songs related to the spring season. For example, the song El donya rabee (it’s springtime) by Soad Hosny, Adi el rabee ad men tany (here is spring once again) by Farid al-Atrash are some of the most popular songs played on the occasion of Sham el-Nessim.
After all the dancing, they snack together. But instead of going to popular cafes, they bring with them some homemade food. And why not? After all, they are out on a picnic!
Colouring and decorating eggs is also an important tradition during Sham el-Nessim, just like it is during Easter. Families usually boil these eggs the night before and take these with them to the picnic. The use of eggs signifies rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings.
Children with adult family members spend a lot of time decorating these eggs with various designs. Then people do different things with these eggs. Some just eat them; some gift them to others, showcasing their love and care; some choose to write their wishes on these and hang them on trees or their homes, hoping that these wishes come true.
What do people Eat During Sham el-Nessim?
Fisikh – the star of the show
Fesikh is a fermented, heavily salted dry grey mullet fish and also one of the most popular food items during Sham el-Nessim. It is first dried in the sun and then left in salt for several months or even a year. Of course, it is pungent, which is the reason most families prefer having it at picnics rather than their homes. And if you want to try it out on your solo trip to Egypt, make sure to get one from the eateries where you can spot many locals.
However, these fishes can rot easily. If eaten in such a state, it can cause food poisoning and even botulism, which is life-threatening. To avoid this, make sure that you eat fesikh in moderation and check for signs of rotting or contamination in the fish before eating. In addition, it is always a good idea to stay well hydrated at all times. To make fesikh more digestible, people usually eat it with bread and squeeze a lemon on top, making it tastier!
Vegetables – great help with digestion
Other than the traditional fesikh, many different types of fish are also eaten. On the other hand, lettuce and spring onions are preferred food items when it comes to vegetables. Termes, a typical dish made using lupin beans soaked overnight and then boiled until bright yellow, is the locals’ favourite.
These vegetables help a lot with digestion and balance out the high salt levels in fesikh and other fishes eaten during the festival. Also, one interesting fact that I learnt is that eating onion originates from an incident in the Egyptian legend where a Pharaoh’s daughter had an incurable disease, and onions helped her recover from it. It’d be great if we had sorcery like that today!
Alternatively, you can find many street vendors selling mouth-watering local Egyptian food during this season. There is a lot of variety when it comes to street food too. You will have a hard time choosing what to eat. But let me tell you, you simply cannot resist having all of it! My all-time favourite is Koshari, the national dish of Egypt. I literally survived on this dish during my entire solo trip!
Reasons to visit Egypt During Sham el-Nessim
That was roughly everything about what happens on the day of the Spring Festival. In short, the history is fascinating, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere even better. If all of that hasn’t convinced you already, I’ll tell you some reasons to visit Egypt during Sham el-Nessim.
Minimal crowds due to off-season
The peak tourist season in Egypt ends around mid-April. Most tourists leave the country when the preparation for Sham el-Nessim starts. Due to this, you can enjoy the festival thoroughly without having to deal with huge crowds. You can consider visiting areas where people gather on the day of the festival and have a wonderful time there. As there aren’t many tourists around during this time, you can meet a couple of local families too.
Not only this, but lesser crowds mean that exploring the rest of the country is also much easier. You can travel in relatively empty buses and visit tourist attractions without having to wait in long queues and being surrounded by people. Also, you can explore these places for as long as you want and click some pictures for Instagram! And while you are here, do not forget to try out some non-touristy things, as these make your trip a truly memorable one.
Experience the rich Egyptian culture
There is no perfect time to learn about the culture of any country. And Egypt is no exception. You can visit the country at any time of the year and take day tours and guides to learn about it. However, when you decide to travel during the festive season, you can not only learn about the culture of the country but also experience it. Trust me—there is a whole lot of difference between learning about something and experiencing the same.
For example, you can learn how traditional Egyptian dishes are made during the festive season, what people wear on this day, and how they prepare for this ancient festival. Learning about this would be impossible if you decide to travel during any other season.
On my solo trip to Egypt, I opted for Airbnb experiences and explored things I couldn’t have otherwise. I went to a local family’s home, checked out the décor, talked about various things, and also had dinner with them! You can check out Airbnb experiences, do multiple things and maybe spend some time with a family on Sham el-Nessim.
Devour on mouth-watering delicacies
Egypt is known for its wide variety of local dishes. From street vendors to budget-friendly cafes to top-class restaurants, you can taste everything that the country has to offer. While you can do that throughout the year, the best part about travelling during the spring season is that you get to try out the festive food. Be it the most famous fesikh, or other variety of fish—you can have it all during this time. To top it all off, you can taste other dishes like spring onions and termes that are vegetables, but delicious ones!
Other than this, you can choose to eat decorated eggs too! The shell of these is decorated, and then the egg is eaten, which is believed to bring good luck. Furthermore, you can visit restaurants and check out if they offer special festive eggs. Even though the taste doesn’t differ one bit from a regular boiled egg, little things like these change the whole experience of the trip. You can also try out some dishes from the street vendors. In addition to the regular koshari, sweet potatoes, and Egyptian tea, they offer many seasonal dishes too.
Getaway from the stress of solo travelling
It’s no secret that solo travelling can be very tiring. Sometimes, it can get a little lonely too. To overcome this loneliness, you can participate in the celebrations. Sham el-Nessim is one of those few festivals around the world celebrated by people belonging to all faiths and beliefs. So, every Egyptian is involved in the festivities, regardless of their religion. You can also join in, sing, dance, participate in games, and have a fun time.
If you decide to opt for an Airbnb experience, you are going to have the time of your life here. You will get an opportunity to paint eggs using dye. The fun part is you can choose to write your wishes, hang these eggs on trees, and hope for them to come true. Who knows, they might come true someday. I doubt if you can have such a fun time elsewhere on a solo trip!
Are you planning to visit Egypt during the Spring Festival?
So, that was all you need to know about Sham el-Nessim. To be very honest, I doubt if there is a better time to visit Egypt than during the Spring Festival. The excitement during these festive times is at its peak! Even though there is joy all around, make sure that you do not sacrifice your safety. I know such things do not happen during this time, but it is always great to be safe.
I know that you would want to book your flights right away and fly to Egypt. But before that, make sure that you check out my blog on what to pack for Egypt, as you wouldn’t want to miss out on any of these. Also, I would love to know about your experiences in the comments below. Happy travelling, ladies!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.