Travelling to an Islamic country during Ramadan can be a very exciting thing, but if you’re caught of guard it can prove to be difficult. Countries located in the northern part of Africa as well as the Middle East will begin a month-long fasting holiday next week, here’s what you need to know about travelling during Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a holy month celebrated by Muslins around the world. It falls during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslins celebrate Ramadan by fasting between dawn and dusk, at which time the streets come alive and the feasting begins. It is a time for extra prayers, to practice patience and modesty and ask for forgiveness for past since. The level of participation greatly depends on the country. Similarly, traditions and practices can also vary from country to country.This year it is expected to start August 11th and will last for 30 days, until September 9th.
If you plan to travel to Muslin countries during Ramadan it is recommended to be sensitive to the fast. Ramadan may not be your religious holiday but as a sign of respect to the culture and the country you are visiting there are a few things you should keep in mind.
How to travel during Ramadan?
- Avoid smoking, drinking and eating while in public. Most locals will understand that you’re under no obligation to fast, but they will appreciate that you are aware of what they’re doing. To be polite, eat your meals and snacks in the privacy of your hotel room.
- In some extreme Muslin countries it’s considered illegal to drink/smoke/eat in public during the period of fasting and could result in fines (this is especially true in Algeria).
- Some restaurants will only be open after sunset and it may prove difficult to find places to eat outside of the very touristy areas. In some hotel restaurants, there are screens put in place to separate Western diners from Muslim guests.
- It’s very common that day-time business hours are shortened. Most shops will close at 14:00, so make sure you do your shopping beforehand.
- When the fast is broken, called iftar, each day it can be very hard to find a taxi since everyone is heading to eat with their family or
friends (including bus and taxi drivers). Public transportation is a nightmare, so plan your movements to avoid the rush.
- Take to the night, that’s when the real cultural experiences start. After the meal, many will go about their usual “daytime” activities during the night which means the streets are alive! Take a rest during the day so you can enjoy the boisterous night-life when the sun sets.
- After the month of Ramadan there is a 3-5 day festival to celebrate the end of the fasting period. This is called Eid ul-Fitr. Many Muslins travel to see family and friends during these days so if you want to find a cheap hotel at that time, make sure you’ve booked it far in advance.
It’s not that you should at all costs avoid Islamic countries during Ramadan. Visiting a Muslim country during Ramadan is a great way to really see what Islamic culture is about. If you’re unsure about rules and other restrictions to during your visit, ask a local or someone from your hotel.
Have you ever visited an Islamic country during Ramadan? What was your experience like?
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