Ramadhan starts on the 15th May 2018, give or take. If you have booked your family holiday during the May Half Term, to a predominately Muslim country, it is good to know what to expect.
Let me start by saying that you won’t be left hungry or thirsty during your family holiday, unless you decide to experiment with fasting yourself or you are Muslim. Most of the touristy destinations will have food & drink available during the day, although you might find restrictions around the sale of alcoholic drinks in some countries. If you are travelling to more remote places, it might be best to pack a picnic for your family.
Why I am talking about being hungry and thirsty? What is Ramadan? Ramadan is one month in the year in which Muslims around the World abstain from food & drink during daylight hours. It is a spiritual act which brings the community together. So if you are visiting a Muslim majority country during Ramadan, you will have an opportunity to have a very unique cultural experience, should you decide to explore outside your hotel.
During the day, you might find shops open later in the day. Equally, you may find restaurants open later into the night. In some countries, like Dubai, there are special lavish pre-dawn meals ‘Suhoor’ held at hotels & restaurants. In other countries, like Morocco, it is worth experiencing a local breaking of the fast ‘Iftaar’. Some agencies like Berberlands Essaouira, can arrange for your family to break the fast with traditional Berber tribes in the hills of Essaouira. You don’t need to fast to enjoy the cultural experience. MarocMama shares a list every year on the best places to go in Marrakech for breaking the fast.
In Istanbul, families commune around the courtyards of the mosques with picnics to break their fasts. Coloured lights adorn the streets of Jerusalem, and the old city comes to life as pilgrims flock to break their fast at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. Egyptian Streets paints a wonderful picture of Ramadan in Cairo which is well worth the read. Around Malaysia, the streets become long stretches of food bazaars. Read about the top 5 bazaars to hit if you are visiting KL this Ramadhan. Then there is the glitz & glamour of Dubai, where you can dine in elegance at one of the many Iftar & Suhoor buffets. Find out more about visiting Dubai during Ramadan here.
In different countries, the fasting, the pre-dawn meal & the breaking of the fast are referred to by different names. Yet the essence of the fast itself remains unchanged. Here are some practical things to keep in mind, if you are travelling during Ramadhan:
When you encounter people, you might find them a bit snappy. Staying off food & drink might be an act of spirituality, but we are all human after all. So do give the snappy shop keeper or the hasty taxi driver, a bit of slack.
Particularly in the larger cities, where traffic can be horrendous any way. Just before the fast breaks, as everyone tries to make it home in time for the breaking of the fast, the roads can get really busy. Do factor that in if your flight is scheduled to leave close to that time. It might also be harder to get a taxi to where you need to go.
Whilst there is no expectation for tourists to fast, please do be considerate when out & about. Getting openly drunk, really would be disrespectful. Equally, moaning about shops & eateries being closed during the day, wouldn’t be the best thing to moan about.
At the end of the month, the end of the fasting is marked by celebration known as Eid al Fitr. It is also referred to as Hari Raya, in Malaysia. There may be shop closures, the roads might be busier or transport might be affected, so do plan accordingly.
So, if you have booked to go to Muslim majority country this May Half Term. Enjoy it. Join with the festivities & come back having experienced something new. Share your experiences.
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