Photo Credit: N'pallon James Kamara
What You Need To Know When Visiting Muslim Countries During Ramadan
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a holy month for Muslims worldwide. It is a month of worship, fasting, and faithful devotion. In addition to enjoying the lights, colorful lanterns, and savory food, visiting Muslim countries during Ramadan offers the opportunity for an incredible learning and cultural experience.
Here are five helpful tips for visiting Muslim countries during Ramadan.
Do Your Research
As with visiting any destination, conducting thorough research prior to your trip is key. Since Ramadan falls on different dates every year, it’s a good idea to check and see when exactly it will begin and end.
Having experienced various Muslim countries both in and out of Ramadan, Honorine Uwase learned a great deal about traveling during the holy month.
“Researching local customs will help answer any queries you might have,” she says. “For example, some countries, such as U.A.E. do not allow public eating or drinking during Ramadan. Other countries are more lenient.”
Researching beforehand will allow you to be prepared, so you know what to expect and can avoid any accidental faux pas.
Traveling to foreign countries with cultures and customs that may differ greatly from our own means we must be respectful of their traditions.
“Remember that Ramadan is a time for devotion and reflection. Be mindful of how you carry yourself or vocalize certain things.”
“As non-Muslims, you are not required to fast, but you may want to limit your eating and drinking in front of our fasting Muslim brothers and sisters. Even at airports, you may find the restaurants closed before the security checkpoint or signs stating that it’s prohibited to eat or drink in the common areas. If unsure, it’s best to ask a counter agent. You’ll likely find open restaurants after security.”
Observe Modest Attire
Most Muslim countries require a relatively modest dress code, even outside of Ramadan. So you’ll definitely want to avoid revealing outfits during this month.
“In the summer months it can be extremely hot, so lighter clothing is favorable for the extreme temperatures. Ladies, when possible, carry a light scarf with you to cover your shoulders. Dresses that fall past the knees (preferably at the ankles) or pants are a good idea.”
Also, keep in mind that if you plan on visiting a mosque during your stay, you will need to wear a scarf to cover your hair, as well.
Be Prepared for a Different Schedule
During Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, and many businesses function differently to accommodate the fasting schedule.
“The country you are traveling to may operate at a slower pace during the day and things may close earlier than usual. Return in the evening when things open back up and stay open much later, especially restaurants.”
“This is the perfect time to stop by the local souq, noted for selling local art, garments, spices, handcrafts, and souvenirs. If you are looking for a relaxing lounge area and shisha, they have those, too.”
“If you will be going on tours, your tour guide may let you know that they will need to pause at sunset to break their fast. It was a humbling experience to break fast with my tour guide.”
“We heard the call to prayer, he pulled over, and we then broke fast with some water and dates on the side of the road after our desert safari and dune bashing tour. He was very hospitable. Even after a long day of not eating, he shared his meal with us.”
Participate in the Customs
Iftar is the sunset meal eaten by Muslims when they break their fast. They are typically large meals and a great way to immerse yourself in the local food and culture.
“If you are invited to iftar, definitely attend! It’s a joyous celebration to eat and enjoy with the locals. I also tried fasting while in Qatar, and it was harder than I expected. The self-control and devotion that it takes are something to be praised.”
Anyone remaining until the end of Ramadan is in for a treat as they will have the opportunity to witness the observance of Eid al-Fitr. This holiday marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated with elaborate feasts sometimes attended by hundreds of people dressed in their finest clothes. Attending an Eid feast will allow you to taste a plethora of flavorful new dishes and sweet desserts.