Traveling during Ramadan? Here’s what you need to know

Islamic month of fasting travel tips

Muslim praying in Ramadan

If you are on holiday in Muslim countries during Ramadan, life is a little different there. This article tells you which restrictions you have to expect and which new cultural experiences you can have.

What is Ramadan

During Ramadan, the Archangel Gabriel is said to have revealed the Koran to the Prophet Mohamed. Believing Muslims celebrate this event by fasting for almost a month. They are forbidden to eat and drink between sunrise and sunset, and smoking is not allowed. In the intervening period, devotees may break the fasting. The month of fasting serves for reflection, which is used, for example, to deal intensively with the Koran. Fasting is also a practice of self-control.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan is an integral part of active Muslims. Excluded from the regulations that apply during Lent are children, the sick, expectant, nursing mothers, and women who have their menstrual period. Even travelers do not have to obey the commandments. The end of Ramadan is heralded with the three-day sugar festival, during which there are lots of sweets, gifts are distributed, and families meet.

Are there any restrictions in the month of fasting?

The month of fasting affects many areas of life in Muslim countries, which you will also notice as tourists. The restrictions also depend on the country to which you want to book a flight. Below we go into some questions you might ask yourself in connection with Ramadan on vacation.

Do the rules of Ramadan apply to travelers?

The rules that apply to Ramadan are intended for Muslims. So you don’t have to fast from sunrise to sunset, for example. As you could already read above, Muslims are also exempt from the regulations under certain conditions. However, out of cultural sensitivity, you should be careful not to attract negative attention in public by drinking or eating something visible to everyone. This could lead to conflicts with Muslims who take the month of fasting very seriously.

Praying at sunset
Praying @ sunset

A country where you have to follow certain rules not to break the law in the United Arab Emirates. In the UAE, it is a criminal offense to eat, drink, smoke (even in the car), or even chew chewing gum in public. The law does not spare non-Muslims here.

How are shops open during the month of fasting?

During the fasting month of Ramadan, it is not uncommon for shops to close earlier. This is because owners and employees rush to break the fast with family, friends, or business associates. Then it can get quite crowded on the streets and the risk of accidents increases. So keep your eyes outside. After the iftar, as the breaking of the fast is called in Arabic, more traffic will be expected again because the shops open again and are well attended.

Do restaurants open during Ramadan?

Some restaurants are completely closed during the day and only reopen shortly before sunset. In cities and holiday resorts with many tourists, you will also find restaurants that receive guests. You rarely have to expect restrictions in hotel restaurants. Many restaurants offer a particularly varied buffet in the evening. You can then enjoy the great selection with Muslims who do not meet privately to break the fast. Alternatively, large tents are set up outside, where you can feast with others.

Do you work in the fasting month of Ramadan?

During the month of fasting, people also work; otherwise, the hotel or restaurant operations, for example, would not be able to be maintained. So you don’t have to worry that everything will come to a standstill, for example, if you want to fly to Hurghada on the Red Sea for a vacation. At most, everything happens a little slower – no wonder if the fasting people want to save energy as much as possible to get through the time from sunrise to sunset better.

Aside from that, many non-Muslims work in the tourist areas, and they don’t have to fast. In the fasting month of Ramadan, access to the sights can be restricted. So if you want to visit certain museums or archaeological sites, it is best to inquire beforehand. If – for whatever reason – you have to contact an authority, expect that they won’t be open as long as usual.

Do you have to pay attention to your clothes?

Appropiate clothing muslim world
Long dress, appropriate attitude

If you are on vacation in a country where Islam is the dominant religion, you will be expected to dress modestly. This is primarily understood to mean not showing too much skin, which is even more true for women than men. During Ramadan, you should really pay attention to it because the locals react more sensitively to moral violations. By the way: At high temperatures and intense sun, as can often be found in countries with a predominantly Islamic population, you are doing yourself a favor by putting on long clothes. This makes the desert, sea, and cultural foliage in Qatar, for example, much more pleasant. If it is airy, you also increase your well-being.

Can you drink alcohol in public?

Alcohol is frowned upon in Islam, so it is not so easy to get to in countries that are culturally influenced by this religion. This is at least true for purchases in stores. In public, regardless of whether it is allowed or not, you should refrain from drinking alcohol out of respect for local customs.

If you are on vacation in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, you violate the law if you drink alcohol in public. Not only that, but drunkenness in public is also prohibited in the United Arab Emirates. So it’s not a good idea to go out onto the street after a few glasses of wine or beer at the hotel bar. In the holiday regions of the Islamic world, alcohol is usually served in hotels. If not in the light, then at least to break the fast. So you don’t have to worry about being left out on dry land.

Reasons to go on holiday during Ramadan

If you are open to new things, a holiday in Ramadan is definitely an interesting cultural experience. It is quieter than usual during the day, and in the evening, everything comes to life. If you are on vacation in Dubai, for example, you can expect fewer crowds at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Also, in the Dubai parks, under which several amusement parks are grouped, there is less going. You will also benefit from fewer visitors to the Atlantis Water Park. On the one hand, the desert emirate is strictly Muslim, but on the other hand, it does not want to scare away tourists. An example: The windowpanes of some restaurants are masked, which is a good compromise.

Sharm el Sheikh beach
Beaches are open, hotels work during Ramadan

If you decide to go on holiday to Istanbul during Ramadan and would like to know the culture of breaking the fast, a detour to the Blue Mosque is a good idea. There are stalls selling sweets and souvenirs, and the Iftar buffet is set up in tents. Sit down and experience the atmosphere if you like. Tourists are welcome. Regardless of which Islamic country you are on vacation in, the three-day sugar festival that ends Ramadan tops everything again. If you have private contacts and can celebrate in a more intimate atmosphere, this is an experience.

Of course, you can go a step further and try fasting yourself. But don’t do it if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable. The heat and the simultaneous lack of hydration demand a lot from the body. You will notice this, for example, from the fact that some of the fastings do not look particularly fit or are irritable.

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