May is the first month of summer in Egypt and as such, temperatures aren't quite as sweltering as they get later in June and July. However, they're by no means "cool" either. Cairo—home to the Great Pyramids of Giza—averages daytimes highs of 85°F to 95°F (with evenings dropping to around 60°F to 65°F) and Red Sea towns such as Sharm el-Sheikh range from 84°F to 91°F (with slightly warmer nights of 62°F to 72°F).
Farther south, it's much hotter. Luxor highs hover around 98°F to 106°F while Abu Simbel sees daytime temperatures of 100*F to 104°F. There's a marked difference countrywide between the first and second part of the month, so if you're hoping to avoid the scorching heat, come earlier in May—and wherever you go, bring lots of sunscreen and protective UV clothing like scarves, hats, and lightweight apparel
In addition to high temperatures, the desert experiences sandstorms this time of year brought on by the hot khamsin currents that draws sudden, powerful winds (though they're usually very brief). Keep an eye on the weather forecast if you choose to venture into the desert.
Crowds and Costs
The great thing about visiting Egypt in May is that the crowds start shrinking dramatically due to the heat. Although you'll always find flocks of tourists at the major sites like the Pyramids of Giza, the restaurants and flea markets won't be as crowded, nor will the tour buses which often get crammed to capacity earlier in the year. What's more, the prices drop as many hotels and airlines offer "end of season" deals. It's an excellent time to find more wallet-friendly rates throughout the country, especially in Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, and other destinations inland and farther south.
Where to Go
The best places to visit in Egypt in May are undoubtedly the Red Sea coastal towns along the Sinai Peninsula. These include the upscale resort towns like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, as well as more laid-back destinations such as Dahab. Temperatures there are far more bearable and they tend to have warm sea breezes that take the edge off the harsh midday heat. Plus, all of the best activities are water-based—things like swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, kiteboarding, and sea kayaking will make your trip fun and enjoyable.
Alexandria and Cairo are also considerably cooler than regions farther south or west. Alexandria sits on the coast in the far north, staying pleasant throughout May, and the capital is still tolerable, even with the increasing temperatures. (Plus, it's far less crowded this time of year).
As you travel south to Luxor and beyond, the heat reaches consistent triple digits during the daytime and it can be difficult to enjoy the historical sites. That said, if you do choose to venture that way, a Nile River cruise can make these destinations more bearable. You'll spend a good portion of your time on the boat where the river breezes will tame the heat and most of the cabins have air conditioning. Just be sure to bring a lot of sunscreen and keep well-hydrated when you head off to explore the ruins.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
The beaches are brimming with life and activities this time of year. Check out places like Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, or Dahab where you'll find vibrant beach towns full of tourists sipping cocktails by the pools, sunbathing, getting massages, and playing the water. There's also great nightlife if you're so inclined, particularly in Sharm el-Sheikh where you can have a drink served in ice glasses at the Ice Bar or watch belly dancers and international singers perform at Gu Bar.
The Red Sea is also home to the SS Thistlegorm Wreck—a world-class shipwreck dive site. You can arrange a tour from either Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada.
In Alexandria, check out the Roman Amphitheater which houses the ruins of old Roman baths and an ancient mosaic floor. Or, swing by the National Museum to check out Pharaonic artifacts in an Italian-style palace that used to be the location of the U.S. consulate. The Montaza Gardens are also beautiful this time of year, though you'll want to bring plenty of water.
From there, head down to Cairo, the booming Egyptian capital that's home to the famous Pyramids of Giza, as well as dynamic food, entertainment, and nightlife. Highlights include the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and other famed archaeological wonders. The central part of the city also has beautiful mosques such as the Al-Azhar Mosque or the Sultan Hassan Mosque.
Events in May
Ramadan: During Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—Muslims in Egypt fast all day and then host elaborate feasts at night. It's a great time for tourists interested in the food scene; however, other attractions become more limited. Some of the tourist sites close early and many smaller restaurants are closed completely, especially during the day. Alcohol also becomes limited during this time so plan ahead if you visit during Ramadan.
Moulid of Abu Al Haggag: This Sufi celebration takes place in Luxor toward the end of April during which time the locals dress in colorful clothes and host musical events, dances, horse races, theater performances, and more. It's a fun festival to watch—just keep in mind that Luxor is hot this time of year.
Traveling to Egypt in May? Check out this great itinerary
Cairo, Giza, & Alexandria - 5 Days: The five-day cultural tour is a fantastic itinerary for a May visit because it forgoes the hotter areas in the south in favor of Cairo and the cooler surrounding destinations in the north. Among numerous highlights inlcude the Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, and a tour of Alexandria's famous Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa.