We at Sharm el Sheikh, are sometimes a bit left behind when it comes to Egyptian holidays. We do not feel them except that some more holiday makers from Cairo come, and therefore do know little about them.
The weekend of the Coptic Easter, this year 12 April, is always followed by Sham el Nessim on Monday.
A national holiday and folk festival in Egypt, the Sham el Nessim has been observed for thousands of years as a day to smell the breezes and celebrate spring. Nessim means “zephyr,” the spring breeze, and sham means “to breathe in.” While the date is set by the Coptic calendar, the holiday is now a non-religious national holiday observed by everyone as a family affair.
Traditionally, people pack picnics to have outings along the Nile River or in parks. Certain food is specified for the occasion: the main dish is fessikh, a kind of salted fish, and it’s also traditional to have mouloukhiya (stuffed vine leaves) and eggs with decorated, colored shells. The foods are believed to prevent disease, and the eggs symbolize life. Vast numbers of fish are eaten in Cairo on Sham al-Nessim.
At the time of the pharaohs, spring was celebrated with gifts of lotus flowers to wives or loved ones, and families enjoyed river outings on flower-decorated barges and feluccas (small sailing vessels).