The holy month of Ramadan (also known Ramzan), which is an Islamic event that lasts for a month, it comes in the ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar, it is the time which Muslims all over the world fast during the day daily for 30 days starting from the dawn prayer until the sunset prayer.
This month brings a lot of joy to Muslims, but for many non-Muslims, travelling or living for them in a predominantly Muslim country during this time may be accompanied by some inconveniences and restrictions. But let us mention the bright and beautiful side of this month, it provides an opportunity to see a different side of life in Islamic countries. It is an important, sacred and religious time for Muslims, and while many tourists continue to visit Islamic countries throughout the year including the month of Ramadan, some basic knowledge about this special tradition is necessary and important that will help make your tourism experience during this month a wonderful one.
Thing you must know:
Ramadan is the ninth holiest month in the Islamic Hijri calendar, and it lasts from 29 to 30 days. Muslims fast daily and most restaurants are expected to be closed until Iftar time at sunset. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempted from this but still have to refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered extremely impolite. Working hours are reduced further in most companies. The exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr, which may last for several days and usually three days in most countries.
With the appearance of the crescent (the crescent of the beginning of the month of Ramadan), which is examined by astronomers, and as soon as the crescent appears, it is officially announced that the second day is the first day of the month of Ramadan, and in this way, Muslims can safely estimate the beginning of the month of Ramadan, although many recommend making visual confirmation each According to his region, however, some depend on public discretion.
Eid Ul Fitr
Eid Ul-Fitr holiday, which coincides with the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal, which is the next lunar month, is announced after seeing the crescent moon or after completing thirty days of fasting in the absence of a possible visual vision due to weather conditions. It is a celebration of returning to normalcy in terms of eating and drinking.
History of Ramadan and Ramadan (religious) tourism:
History of Ramadan goes back to the pre-Islamic period when Arabs used to fast from sunrise to sunset, and it is present in all religions.
In Islam, it was revealed in the Holy Qur’an, which is the main holy book of Islam believed by Muslims and which Allah (God) revealed to Prophet Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, through the angel Gabriel, peace be upon him. Ramadan has become a sacred month for Muslims, and fasting has become mandatory for every adult Muslim, with certain special exceptions such as health and other extenuating circumstances.
Since that time, performing the Umrah during the month of Ramadan has become popular with many Muslims as well as visiting the two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, in addition to mosques and historical Islamic holy places.
Mosques and historical Islamic monuments have become what was later known by religious tourism, including visiting the Islamic holy places during the blessed month of Ramadan, which is also known as Ramadan tourism, which has developed with time.
Specialists and travel agents have become interested in it and work on designing different kinds of Tour Packages for the blessed month of Ramadan that includes all the services recognized in the fields of tourism, including entertainment activities as well, except events that oppose the rituals of the month of Ramadan which was revealed to Muslims and seek to adhere to it.
Ramadan tourism could be included in two types of tourism: religious tourism and halal tourism. Thus, traveling during Ramadan to Muslim-majority countries can present an additional challenge. You will learn here in our article more about it, its rituals and the best places that can be visited for tourism during the month of Ramadan both for Muslims and non-Muslims, these rituals constitute a kind of adventure and discovering new customs and traditions, especially for non-Muslims as well as for Muslims themselves.
Human practices, values and customs that you will learn during Ramadan:
Fasting is a common practice ritual from dawn to sunset, And the pre-dawn meal, which is called sahoor, and the iftar meal at sunset.
Muslims also engage in increasing prayer and charity during the month of Ramadan, as Muslims try to practice self-discipline to a high degree because of its high sanctity and spirituality.
Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to make more effort in following the teachings of Islam. Fasting, along with abstaining from food and drink, self-control, erroneous speech and behavior, is generally said about fasting, that it redirects the heart away from worldly activities, and its purpose is to purify the soul from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to exercise self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and compassion for those less fortunate in life, thus encouraging acts of generosity and charity (zakat).
Every day before dawn, Muslims delight themselves with a pre-fasting meal called Sahoor, which helps them endure fasting (abstaining from food and drink) throughout the day.
At sunset, families rush to eat their Iftar meal, and it usually begins with eating dates according to tradition, then performs the Maghrib prayer, and then completes the meal.
Social gatherings are frequent, often as the solemnities of Iftar abound. Often the spotlight is on traditional dishes, including traditional sweets, especially those that are prepared only during the month of Ramadan, and water is the preferred drink, then milk drink with dates. Juice and milk are often available, as well as soft drinks and drinks that contain on caffeine and others.
In the Middle East Iftar consists of water and juice, dates, salads, appetizers, one or more main dishes and various types of desserts, along with liquids. Dessert is usually the most important part during breakfast. Typical main dishes are lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or grilled chicken served with rice. The meal ends with a rich dessert, such as logaimat, baklava, kunafa or sweet stuffed pastries.
Over time, Iftar evolved into a festival for banquets, moments, family meeting, friends and surrounding communities, and in return, it may also occupy very large spaces in mosques and banquet halls for 100 or more people, where free buffets are spread to all and those who are responsible for them are lovers of philanthropy. For example, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, feeds up to 30,000 people inside the mosque every night for Iftar. About 400 chefs and nearly 500 service employees participate in providing Iftar. which includes dates and yogurt drink, also one of the largest Iftar meals in the world is held in the mosques of Mashhad every year, with around 12,000 people attending every night.
It is very important in Islam, especially during the month of Ramadan, and it is the so-called zakat, which is often distributed among the poor, and this teaches many of the importance of striving to gain the pleasure of God as well as a sense of what the poor go through in terms of difficult circumstances and needs.
Tarawih (Arabic: Taraweeh) is an additional night prayer performed during the month of Ramadan, and contrary to popular belief, it is considered a voluntary prayer and not mandatory, but Muslims adhere to it seeking the closeness to God in this holy month.
Recitation of Quran:
In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the holy Qur’an which consists of thirty parts. Some Muslims incorporate the recitation of one part in each of the thirty Tarawih sessions during the month of Ramadan.
Some traditional practices, such as the Ramadan lantern and the beating of the drum for Sahoor:
In some Islamic countries, lights are hung in public squares and in the streets of the city, a tradition believed to have originated during the Fatimid Caliphate, when the rule of the Caliph al-Mu’izz, was welcomed by the people by carrying lanterns.
In Java Island, many believers bathe in the sacred springs in preparation for fasting, which is known as Badusan. Semarang start Ramadan with the Dogdiran Carnival, which includes the parade of the thighbird, a hybrid creature of dragon and horse that is purportedly inspired by the Buraq. And in Chinese-affected capital of Jakarta, fireworks are widely used to celebrate Ramadan, although they are officially illegal.
Towards the end of Ramadan, most employees receive a monthly bonus known as Tunjangan Hari Raya. Certain types of foods are especially popular during Ramadan, such as beef or buffalo in Aceh and snails in Central Java. Iftar is announced every evening with the banging of a giant drum in the mosque.
Some of the customs in Middle East and some Asian countries:
During Ramadan in the Middle East, magicians ring the drum and spin around the neighborhoods to wake people up for the sahoor meal likewise in Southeast Asia, the kentongan drum is used for the same purpose.
Some tips for tourists:
How is the situation of tourists who travel to an Islamic country during Ramadan? Well, you will notice more changes in daily life in the smaller cities than in the bigger cities of course. Your options for eating and drinking and your time for some activities may be limited. But since this religious month has its own rituals, it can still be considered an attraction for tours to these countries.
Traveling to these areas in Ramadan provides an opportunity to see a different aspect of the Muslim lifestyle, such as serving breakfast in public places for religious gatherings, its nightlife, and at breakfast in the evening, many dates, tea, soup, halva and some traditional foods and delicious foods are offered for free.
Although some shops and restaurants are closed during the day in Ramadan, tourists can enjoy a richer Islamic-style nightlife experience at night, as most of the shops, especially restaurants, cafes and food stalls remain in the streets, as well as some shopping and entertainment areas such as swimming pools or cinema. Open after midnight hours until dawn.
Many families and young people go out and spend their time in the streets and parks until dawn. Cities covered in glowing lights and crowded with people at such a late time are more lively than at any other time. So, it’s a good opportunity to mingle with the locals.
Non-Muslim tourists are not expected to fast or follow Islamic rituals, but they are expected to respect these rituals and seek to know them as a kind of cultural tourism or tourism of customs and traditions and try to adapt to it by abstaining from eating, drinking and smoking in public places during the day. Restaurants and fast food outlets, especially restaurants and cafes located in hotels, highways, airports, railways and bus stations are open so they can have meals there as some ready-made fast food is served.
Moreover, many tourist sites open during the day so you do not need to worry about taking a sightseeing tour in an Islamic country during Ramadan.
Despite what many tourists think about the many restrictions in Ramadan, traveling to these areas during Ramadan can be a good opportunity for tourists to discover the other side of the cultures, hospitality, beliefs and nightlife.
Places to be visited in Ramadan:
If you have never thought of travelling during Ramadan, we are about to change your mind.
In some Islamic countries, opening hours for shops and eateries may change dramatically during Ramadan so make sure to do your research and double-check before you go.
Here are some places you must consider it in your bucket list:
Makkah (Mecca) and Al-Madina – Saudi Arabia
We are always mentioning the best in the beginning. The most surreal place to go to during Ramadan is none other than the Holy Cities, Mecca and Al-Madina. These are truly the cities which never sleep, and when you are there – we are sure you would not feel like sleeping either to spend Ramadan in the most pure and holy place on Earth is truly a blessing and one we’d definitely recommend you experience at least once in your life.
On top of the beautiful prayer spaces Mecca then Al-Madina offers, it holds Ramadan bazaars and mass breakfast in the mosque. Having a simple meal with your brothers and sisters from around the world just might be the dearest feeling you will hold on to for a long time.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai – UAE
UAE is an incredible country and even more so during the special month of Ramadan. While the typical pace of life slows down and shops may close especially during the heat of the day, there are still tourist amenities as well as events organised to remind the masses on the special meaning of the holy month.
Visit the Grand Mosque and have iftar with the local community there to soak in the local experience, while experiencing for yourself how other Muslim sisters and brothers celebrate Ramadan and Eid. A must-visit is their majlis-style tents where you will find Arab cuisine and gems such as ornate cushions and Persian carpets. It cannot get any more authentic than this. Also you can find a combination of historical urban life as well as the very modern life and places to visit.
One of the most beautiful and historical places in the world, Shiraz, is the former capital of Iran. It is quickly becoming a popular destination where visitors can marvel at UNESCO heritage sites and learn about their rich history.
A must-visit is the Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque (also known as the Pink Mosque) which is so visually stunning and enchanting, and it can only be better during the fasting month.
Visit Vakil Bazaar which is one of the oldest souks around with the treasure trove of Persian culture dating more than 4000 years old, there are endless numbers of things that you can do there during Ramadan, immerse in the local culture and marvel at the sights and sounds at Vakil Bazaar.
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
One of the most underrated travel destinations in Southeast Asia is the capital of Brunei, and this beautiful country has so much to offer! Take a breather from the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the beauty of Tasek Lama Recreational Park. You can also experience a taste of the rainforest in this small sultanate of Borneo. For a slice of local life, visit Kianggeh Market.
For a peek into the local life, visit places such as Kampong Ayer (Ayer Village) and Tamu Kianggeh (Kianggeh market). Drop by their Gerai Ramadan before ending your day with iftar and Tarawih at Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque which overlooks the river.
Currently the best way to travel around is to hire a private car. But do not forget to try their water taxis too.
Cape Town, South Africa
A magnet for tourists all year round, Cape Town has the largest Muslim community in South Africa! The predominant Muslim community is visible in Bo-Kaap (koekisters are a must) and Athlone, where there are 9 mosques in Bo-Kaap alone, with even more in the central city area. A place of historical importance, Bo-Kaap is a colourful (literally) neighbourhood with many halal eateries – perfect for Muslims.
You might not know this, but many Muslims visit Cape Town during Ramadan due to its cooler climate and shorter fasting periods.
The ancient city of Istanbul has such a unique identity – it has a rich ancient past intact yet is so modern. Offering one of the world’s most beautiful examples of historic Islamic architecture, it’s no wonder people still flock here throughout the year and that includes during Ramadan. Come dusk time, the city’s public spaces near the Blue Mosque will be filled with vendors selling Turkish cuisine and religious books. There are also public readings of the Quran.
Stroll along Bosphorus before sunset towards the Blue Mosque and listen to the call for prayer. It truly is a surreal experience, and come night, spend it by praying together with the locals in the mosque to complete that unforgettable Ramadan trip of a lifetime.
Spending Ramadan in Morocco definitely will be a unique experience. You would be amazed by all the food Morocco has to offer that is only available during the month of Ramadan. The best places to treat yourself to the ever-popular Moroccan delicacies are definitely at the souks.
Join the Moroccan community for iftar at their mosques which are peppered all around the country. While the temperature can be rather hot during the fasting month, you will never forget this experience – not when you can hear cannons which mark the time to break your fast.
A tourist hotspot all year round, Cairo is even more enchanting during Ramadan! During the special month, there will be many lanterns and lights decorating the streets and houses. The breaking of fast in their mosques is a great chance to mix with the locals and sample their traditional cuisine, which is unlike any other country.
Your trip to Cairo will not be complete without a visit to their local markets where you can feast on their most delectable cuisine during dusk and get the most unique souvenirs.
Nicknamed the ‘Paris of Java’, this splendid city has a cool climate throughout the year. It is 768 meters above sea level, allowing you to experience the coolest of temperatures – making it a great destination to spend your Ramadan. Seek a peaceful retreat at the Cimahi Waterfall, Tangkuban Perahu and Kawah Putih (White Lake) during the day. Then, head to Pasar Baru Trade Center to look for beautiful textiles to tailor make your very own Syawal costume.
Acts of charity and genuine kindness are all part of the spirit in the holy month, and the friendly folks in Indonesia may also invite you to breakfast with them! Evenings are lively with family and friends gathering to eat, pray and shop.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ramadan is the perfect time to visit Kuala Lumpur Being a predominantly Muslim country, there are many Islamic activities such as Tarawih and Quran recitals at many of the mosques.
You cannot miss the night markets which light up the festivity in the air. These bazaars can be found at almost every corner across the country. Do not miss the ones at Masjid India, Bukit Bintang and Kelana Jaya. Expect to see vendors selling a kaleidoscope of specialty food and items such as attars, prayer mats and Malay traditional costumes. Enjoy the vibes here as you soak in the atmosphere while snacking on Eid goodies.
Singapore is not a Muslim-majority country either, but its commitment to religious harmony makes it a destination where Muslims can spend their Ramadan with ease. There is at least one mosque in every neighborhood, and they hold Tarawih prayers, Islamic classes, or extra prayers throughout the month too.
One of the beloved seasonal attractions that pop up during this month are the Ramadan bazaars. The bazaar in Geylang Serai is probably the biggest and most famous one, but smaller bazaars in other neighborhoods bring a festive touch to Singapore throughout the month. You can get every single dish of your dreams here, and even do some last-minute shopping for Eid apparel, furniture, and accessories.
Ultimately, travelling during the blessed month is only good when it does not defeat the true meaning and purpose of the holy month, but enhances it. Wherever your spiritual compass takes you, we hope these destinations give you that amazing and unforgettable Ramadan.
Ramadan in Oman:
You will find most Omanis to be their usual, friendly selves during Ramadan, but sometimes local people can be tired after long nights of feasting and being with family. Don’t be offended if an Omani seems a bit grumpy with you during the day. You would be, too, in their shoes.
Most restaurants and hotels offer iftar buffets during Ramadan which are an excellent way to sample the special foods of this holiday. Some supermarkets will give dates and yogurt drinks or water to shoppers at the time of sunset.
If you don’t mind staying up later than usual, Oman is an exciting place to explore after dark during Ramadan. Stores and streets are decorated, public places are teeming with life, and everyone is wishing each other a happy Ramadan.
For any question, information or inquiry feel free to contact the Author:
Mrs. Suhair Khan