Are you considering traveling during Ramadan, but aren’t sure regarding the sensitivities of it?
We’re here to tell you that it’s absolutely fine, if fact, it means that you’ll be able to join in on the traditions that come during the fasting period.
Firstly, what is Ramadan?
During Ramadan Muslims fast for Allah.
They abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and intimate relationships during daylight hours, breaking each day’s fast with Iftar at sunset. All but the elderly, sick, pregnant women and those who are traveling are expected to fast. Even children tend to take part.
What about traveling during Ramadan to Muslim countries?
There’s a few things to know about when traveling during Ramadan to Muslim countries.
I think it is essential to ensure that if you are traveling to an Islamic country you are aware of whether or not it is Ramadan while you are there. Since Ramadan becomes 11 days earlier each year this may seem confusing, but in today’s world it is easy to check this online ahead of arriving.
Generally it is not expected that non-Muslims fast during Ramadan. Fasting is tough though. I know how my mood deteriorates when I am hungry. In order to be sensitive to the local culture, it is a kindness on the part of travelers not to eat and drink openly during the day during Ramadan, by which I mean don’t walk down the street snacking or smoking. Every place differs and touristy places often still serve food and drink during the day in Ramadan.
In most Islamic countries, Muslim-run restaurants will remain closed during fasting hours. However, if cafes and restaurants are open then tourists should not feel bad patronizing them. Other countries, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, require everyone to fast in public.
Respect and modesty
Since it is a religious occasion, it is also respectful to wear modest clothing. It normally is anyway when you are in an Islamic country. Behaving extra respectfully towards religious symbols is advisable too, especially mosques, since Ramadan is a time to focus on prayer and reading the Koran.
Drums and dinner
This all sounds very limiting, but spending time in an Islamic country during Ramadan can also be very rewarding. Each evening at sunset when the fast is broken, people gather together for a meal, which is a very sociable occasion and often very jolly, since by this stage of the day people are hungry. Different countries signal Iftar in different ways. When I lived in Turkey a young boy was sent around the neighborhood at sunset, banging a drum to indicate that people could eat.