From Food to Nightlife What Ramadan Means for Travelers in Islamic Countries

Around March 23, the fasting month of Ramadan begins for Muslims around the world. What that means for tourists in Egypt, Morocco or Turkey.

Ramadan is a very special month for Muslims worldwide. Believers refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during the day. Fasting is also one of the five basic duties for them.

This year Ramadan begins on March 22nd and ends on April 21st. The times can vary slightly from country to country as they depend on the sighting of the new moon.

While there are no restrictions at all in the Balkan country of Albania and visitors hardly notice anything about Ramadan, it has a major impact on people’s everyday lives in other Muslim countries. And tourists often feel that there too.

Eating and drinking in Ramadan: After sunset, things get sociable

For package tourists with full board in hotels in Morocco, on the Maldives or in Turkey nothing changes in Ramadan. Except that in the evening there may be more sweets to choose from at the buffet and the staff can be slower and less focused at times. However, alcohol is usually still served there.

Cafés and restaurants outside of the hotels, on the other hand, are often closed during the day. In Egypt, the operators can decide for themselves. In Tunisia and Morocco, only a few bars are open outside of the tourist areas. In Tunisia you can also see many locals who are not fasting themselves, eating and drinking hidden behind closed shutters or tarpaulins.

In the evening, most restaurants and cafes stay open late and offer plenty of treats to break the fast (iftar) after sunset. Foreign visitors are of course also welcome as guests.

In Turkey, however, tourists should plan their dinner outside of the hotel before or after breaking the fast. A reservation is often necessary in order to get one of the coveted seats in the restaurants. By the way, there are no restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the country.

In Tunisia, on the other hand, no alcohol is sold in supermarkets during Ramadan. In some bars – also outside the hotels – guests can still drink beer, wine and cocktails.

By the way, it is not expected anywhere that tourists fast themselves, but it is rewarded with a lot of recognition. However, out of respect for locals, travelers should not eat, drink or smoke in public during the day. Many fasting people find this impolite.

Some sights have shorter opening times

In some Muslim countries, opening times are shortened during Ramadan. In Egypt, for example, sights such as the pyramids and museums close an hour or two earlier than usual, and in Tunisia, too, tourist attractions and shops are often not open as long as usual. Travelers should therefore plan their sightseeing there particularly well during the month of fasting.

In Turkey, on the other hand, there are usually no changes in opening hours. By the way, during the festival of breaking the fast after Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr), many shops remain completely closed.

Transport: It is best to rent your own car during Ramadan

Local public transport is also often restricted during Ramadan. For example in Morocco and Tunisia, where buses are often fully booked days in advance, as many people visit their relatives during this time. In addition, public transport runs there less frequently and often only until the afternoon. Booking in good time is therefore a must for tourists as well.

It is also difficult to find a taxi around sunset, as the drivers are usually busy breaking the nightly fast themselves.

Alternatively, visitors who like to travel can of course rent their own car during Ramadan or organize a private driver to get from A to B comfortably. In Egypt and Tunisia, the cost of private chauffeurs is usually affordable.

Observe the dress code in public during Ramadan

During Ramadan, it is advisable for tourists to pay particular attention to dress codes. While it is still acceptable for foreigners to swim in bikinis or swimming trunks on the hotel beach, they should be more covered up in public. Shorts and tank tops are not popular everywhere, especially during the month of fasting. By the way, short clothing is not allowed in mosques at any time. Women are also required to cover their hair there. This is not necessary in public – even during Ramadan.

Night becomes day in Ramadan

In countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, life tends to shift into the night during Ramadan. In the old town of Tunis, many bars attract locals and tourists with live music in the evening. Tunisian youth in particular party late into the night in the narrow streets and on the hip roof terrace cafés. For tourists, it is a good opportunity to get a glimpse of local life.

A trip to Egypt during Ramadan is also worthwhile because of the special atmosphere: the cities are festively decorated and many people are in a festive mood. The two largest cities, Cairo and Alexandria, are also easier to explore on foot during the month of fasting. The otherwise hopelessly congested streets are empty because many Egyptians spend time at home with their families.

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