Shem al nessim:
As its Arabic name implies, the Shem al Nessim ("sniffing the breeze") festival is a chance to grab a breath of fresh air in the countryside or by the sea. Although the festival falls on the Monday after Coptic Easter, it is celebrated by families throughout Egypt, who take a day out with a picnic.
In Luxor, things are a little less sedate, with traditional music, dance and storytelling on offer to keep you amused. Should you want to join in and enjoy a picnic, key items to have in your basket include salt fish and kidney beans.
Abu Simbel Festival
Abu Simbel Temple
Ramses II, in a fit of precision and despotic architectural egotism, carefully angled his temple at Abu Simbel so that the inner sanctum would light up twice a year: once on the anniversary of his rise to the throne, and once on his birthday. The combination of human endeavour and natural phenomena provides what must be one of the most spectacular sights in the world.
Crowds pack in to the temple before sunrise and watch the shafts of light slowly creeping through the stone. Eventually, statues of Ramses, Ra and Amun are illuminated in the inner sanctum (the statute of Ptah - the god of darkness - remains in the shadows). When they have recovered their breath, spectators can join celebrations outside, including a fair and music demonstrations. However, nothing can really impress you immediately after witnessing such a sight.
Aida at Giza
Oct 2005 (annual)
The Pyramids at Giza
What could be more spectacular than a production of Verdi's Aida staged in front of the Giza Pyramid, just outside Cairo? Sometimes annual (but not in 2004) the Cairo Opera House gives performances of Verdi's opera, where the triumphal march will be one of the most lavish things you have ever seen.
Giuseppe Verdi wrote his antepenultimate opera for the Cairo Opera House. However, it was not - as so commonly assumed - written either for the opening of the Suez Canal, or the Cairo Opera House in 1869. Verdi did not receive the libretto until the following year and the opera was not premièred until 24 December 1871