On the Go Tours travels to many countries where Ramadan is observed, and as it’s such an important time for so many people, we thought we’d compile a few tips for travelling during Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a very important period of fasting observed by Muslims. Observed during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, no food or drink may be consumed at all between sunrise and sunset. The period emphasises the importance of humility, patience, spirituality and submission to God. Perhaps most importantly, it is also believed to be the month in which the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the prophet Mohammed.
As Ramadan comes to an end Muslims celebrate with a three day holiday of feasting and visiting family and friends. The streets are filled with good cheer and Ramadan candles shine brightly through the windows of every home. The wealthy give sizable gifts to the poor and even the poorest still find a little spare change to the give to the excitable children on the street. A brand new bank note is the best gift – for Ramadan everything must be shiny and new.
Terms to remember:
Suhur: This is the start of the daily fast. This happens just before sunrise and will be the last meal taken until sunset.
Iftar: This is the breaking of the fast at the end of the day. This is when towns and cities will really come alive. You might see brightly coloured tents, decorated and decked out for everyone in the community to meet and share a meal together. Ramadan is a time of peace and sharing, and you’ll often see people sharing food or handing out juice to passers-by when it’s time to break the fast. Go for a meal at Iftar, experience night-time banquets and the buzz of the restaurants at night. You’ll be made to feel welcome, even at 1 or 2 in the morning!
Eid: Eid marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the start of the new month in the Islamic calendar. It’s a time of great celebration, quality time with the family and feasting everywhere. Many people go on holiday after Ramadan, so expect hotels to get fuller as tourists from surrounding countries travel to places like Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.
Bear in mind that most people will be fasting for the entire day, not eating any food or drinking any water at all. At the moment, Ramadan falls in the hottest period of the year, making this a particularly challenging time for those who work all day. Although restaurants will be open in some areas to tourists, try not to eat or drink outside of these areas in public during the day. Chewing gum (though not actually eating) is also not very considerate.
If you’re not in a ‘dry’ country, alcohol is permissible after Iftar. You’ll be lucky to find it though. Some hotels will still sell alcohol, but many others either won’t sell it or may frown upon it. Each country will differ, so it’s best to check before you leave.
For Muslims, Ramadan is a time of family togetherness, thinking of the poor and needy, spending time in prayer, asking for forgiveness from Allah and of course eating lots of food during Iftar. But it’s also a great time for travellers to get an insight into other cultures, experience buzzing night-life and enjoy the peaceful, sharing spirit. This year, Ramadan runs from the 1st to the 29th of August.
Happy Ramadan to all who are observing it this year!