Hesitant to travel to an Arab country during Ramadan? Don’t be! Musement shares some tips to best prepare you for travel during the Islamic holy month.
Most travelers are driven by the desire to experience a new culture, whether its via art, nature, gastronomy or entertainment. There’s nothing quite like discovering and immersing yourself in a destination from every possible angle, which is why we urge you to consider visiting an Arab country during Ramadan.
It’s often thought that traveling to an Arab country during Ramadan is a bad idea. Many travelers imagine that they’ll find themselves in a ghost town with barricaded restaurants and hotels and that the few places they cross will all be aggravated by hunger, thirst and fatigue. Not at all! The Muslim holy month is a time for introspection and reflection, where charity and hospitality stand front and center. It’s also worth noting that during Ramadan, tourism numbers are down so prices are a decent and so you might feel like you have some sites all to yourself! During this period, the spirituality is palpable. Once night falls, the atmosphere is unique, the cultural experience absolute. Ramadan is also an opportunity to discover another facet of local gastronomy, joining Iftar and its savory dishes specially prepared to break the daily fast. That said, to avoid being caught off guard, a trip to an Arab country at this time of year requires preparation, so here are some useful tips so you can make the most of your travels.
1. Dress appropriately
When visiting a country with a culture different from your own, it’s important to adapt to local customs. That’s why we advise you to always dress on the conservative side, not to offend the sensitivity of the locals. This is especially true during Ramadan.
2. Avoid public displays of affection
The period of Ramadan is a period of abstinence, which is why we recommend that you categorically avoid public expressions of affection with your partner. In general, physical contact between two people of the opposite sex is quite frowned upon in Muslim countries.
3. Avoid drinking, eating and smoking in public during the fasting hours
Though it’s not illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public during the daylight hours that Muslims fast, it can be frowned upon, and it’s surely disrespectful. In some cities, such as Dubai, areas (often in large hotels) where it’s possible to eat and drink are reserved for non-Muslims. In general, no alcohol is sold during of Ramadan. In Jordan, for example, laws prohibit restaurants and supermarkets from selling alcohol throughout the month.
4. Equip yourself with provisions
Be prepared for most restaurants and supermarkets to be closed. Always have a bottle of water and some snacks like dates or energy bars in your bag. These are easy to consume discretely.
5. Plan your activities in advance
During the holy month, the pace of life slows down considerably—even in large cities like Dubai, Istanbul or Marrakech. If you’re the type to rise at 6:00 am to start a marathon of exploring until nightfall, forget it! Hours of operations for institutions, attractions and restaurants are adjusted during Ramadan. Therefore, it’s therefore crucial to plan your day ahead of time.
6. Take part in the festivities and get to know the local rhythm
Once night falls and the fast is broken, the streets come alive during Ramadan. Missing this is out of the question! In Marrakech, for example, shops are open until 2:00 in the morning, and the nightlife is particularly festive. Don’t miss a tour of the ‘souks‘ (markets), where you can absorb the vibrant and frenetic atmosphere without the tourism crowds. In the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, don’t hesitate to take part in Iftar and join groups of friends and families in big tents where you can eat, dance, smoke from a hookah and exchange with your guests. Since Ramadan is a moment of sharing and fraternity, you’ll undoubtedly be particularly welcomed. The most striking example is the balik kampung festival, literally, “going back to the village,” in Malaysia. At the end of Ramadan, after traditional morning prayers, Malaysians return home to cook and welcome friends, neighbors and even passers-by! Finally, if you have the chance to visit a mosque during Ramadan, by all means, do it! Spirituality is exacerbated in this period, so the cultural bath is full.