From Sheikh Imam and Abdelwahab to Cairokee and Massar Egbari, Egypt's music scene has always been rich and diverse – a constantly evolving expression of the country's present state of being. And much like the rest of the Arab world, nothing brings people together in Egypt quite like music. If you happen to be in town during one of Egypt's music festivals, go experience the mishmash of old and new culture that epitomizes the country's present state of change.
CAIRO JAZZ FESTIVALvia Cairo Jazz Festival
Cairo Jazz Festival was first held in 2009 to celebrate this unique fusion of blues, classical, and folk music that's not well recognized in the Middle East despite is prominence worldwide. The beauty of CJF is that it brings together artists from all over the world at one Cairene venue, each presenting their own interpretations of the genre; you’ll witness a myriad of jazz fusions, from oriental fusions using instruments like rabab to Spanish ones using guitars. This year's Cairo Jazz Festival will be held from October 11 to 13 at the American University’s Tahrir Campus, with some additional performances at venues like Cairo Jazz Club.
CHILL O'POSITEvia NextusJo
If you're more of a house, trance, or electronic music person, Chill O’posite in Dahab is worth checking out. The festival started in 2017 and gathered several DJs and artists from across the region, including Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE, and of course Egypt. For its four-day duration, people dance their worries off with an unparalleled sea view and a breathtaking mountainous background. This year Chill O'posite will was held from August 22 to 25.
INTERNATIONAL SUMMER FESTIVAL AT BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINAvia Bibliotheca Alexandrina
This annual event has been taking place for the past 16 years at Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria in July and August, with a host of bands from all over the world, and a variety of shows from music to theater. The event lasts for a month, give or take a few days, and is attended by thousands.
SANDBOX FESTIVALvia Nacelle
If you're in Egypt in May and suddenly find that 3/4 of Cairo's millennial population is nowhere to be found, chances are they're in Gouna for Sandbox weekend. With DJs and guests coming in from around the world, Sandbox has been one of the region's biggest electronic music festivals since its launch in 2013. You're in for three days of seaside beauty, lots of booze, endless tunes, and the option to go swimming or kitesurfing if you've got it in you.
MAHRAGAN EL-TEBOUL (DRUM FESTIVAL)via Khalid Fawzy
In this free folk festival held annually in El-Moez Street and in Salah El-Din Castle in Cairo, folk bands from across the globe gather to show off their cultural heritage; this year, Egypt boasted six bands from Nubia and Port Said, among others. The festival also involves an exhibition with various handicrafts from each of the participating countries. The 2018 Mahragan El-Teboul was held in April, hosted participants from 22 different countries, and was attended by thousands.
EID EL-SOLH (FESTIVAL OF RECONCILIATION)via Salah El Masry
This one is not your typical music festival – more like a celebration with music, religious chanting, and prayers. In October of each year, when the moon is full, Eid El-Solh (also called 'Festival of Tourism' or 'Festival of Peace') is held for three nights on Mount Dakrour in Siwa Oasis. This celebration dates back almost 160 years, when the tribes of Siwa reconciled after years of conflict; since then, they gather every year at the same time to celebrate the harvest, peace, and tourism. During this event, the elders of the tribes gather to settle any disputes from the past year, doing so after the harvest so that anyone indebted can repay their debts. Once that's settled, Siwa celebrates with a huge feast! Despite being very rooted in the goings on of the Siwan tribes, Eid El-Solh gathers attracts lots of tourists who want to witness the ancient tradition, and they're always welcome by the Siwans who have plenty of food and music to go around. This year's festival is happening from October 22 – 24.
FÊTE DE LA MUSIQUEvia Institut Francais Egypte
Originating in France in 1982 to spread freedom of expression, creativity, and happiness, Fête de la Musique has since spread to over 120 countries, starting in Egypt in 1992 with artists from across the globe playing pop, rock, R&B, and then some. This joint project between the Institut Français d’Égypte and French Embassy in Cairo happens in Al-Azhar Park in Cairo and at the Citadel in Alexandria in June.
ARAB MUSIC FESTIVALvia Egypt Today
Held every October or November at the Cairo Opera House, the Arab Music Festival gathers artists from across the region for around two weeks, playing a variety of symphonies, choirs, and solo performances in several halls throughout the Cairo Opera House.
METAL BLASTvia Mennatullah Hossam
Into more extreme genres of music? Metal Blast has been a cornerstone of the Egyptian underground extreme music scene, with over 10 shows in the past nine years. Hosted annually in Cairo in May, Metal Blast gives room to the rising metal musicians in the country, with the addition of acts from abroad like the renowned Finnish extreme metal band Swallow the Sun.
SAMAA FESTIVAL FOR SPIRITUAL MUSIC AND CHANTING via Dai Nada
Focused on Sufi chanting, Christian choirs, and the like, Samaa Festival attracts artists from all over the world in celebration of peace and spirituality. It's usually held in September in different venues, mainly Salah El-Din Citadel, Al-Ghouri Dome, El-Hanager Theater at Cairo Opera House, and El-Moez Street.
WANAS FOLK MUSIC FESTIVALvia El Mastaba Center
Wanas started back in 2014 as an endeavor by El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music to raise awareness and appreciation for the richness and diversity of Egyptian folk music. The festival brings together local and international folk bands for three days to showcase their cultural identities and folk music heritage. This year, Wanas will be held from November 9 - 11, with the location yet to be determined.
MUSIC PARKvia Ahmed Amr
This festival started out in 2017, hosting several renowned bands from the region like Mashrou' Leila, El Morabba3, and Sharmoofers. This year it was held in Cairo Festival City on October 5th, with bands like Jadal and Massar Egbari.
MAHKA AL QALA'Avia Akhbar el-Yom
This summer festival is held yearly at Salah El-Din Castle, which is beautifully lit with bright colors during the festival. They host artists like Ehab Tawfik, Ali El Haggar, Hesham Abbas, Nesma Mahgoub, Angham, and many others. Bands from different countries also perform in this festival.
RED BULL SOUND CLASHvia Red Bull
Two bands. One stage. One epic face-off. This iconic Red Bull event brings together two bands with entirely different sounds and influences and has them facing off in a bid to win the hearts of the audience members. Last year Massar Egbari faced off against Sharmoofers at Dandy Mall.
RED BULL FEL SHARE3via Red Bull
This festival is quite literally dancing in the street. For nine non-stop hours, Red Bell brings nine bands from across the Arab world to take over the streets of six Egyptian governorates. Red Bull Fel Share3 2018 was held in April and included performances by Massar Egbari, Autostrad, and El Morabba3, among others.
And here's an honorary shout to 3alganoob Festival that we'd love to see make a comeback – it was held at the beautiful Soma Bay by the Red Sea and was three days of beachside music from regional bands, camping, jam sessions, and yoga.
THEATER OF DREAMS FESTIVAL - NUWEIBAvia Theater of Dreams
Taking place amidst the incredible scenery of Nuweiba, with mountains on one side and the Red Sea on the other, Theater of Dreams is the festival to attend this February. The festival will take place on the 7th through the 9th, and will feature tons of cool activities, from yoga classes to workshops. They'll be hosting plenty of renowned artists like A-Squared and Abou Samra. For more details about the packages and prices, check their event.