What You Should Know When Visiting Morocco During Ramadan
WORDS: JOE OLDS
While some people might baulk at the idea of visiting a Muslim country during a time of fasting and abstinence, Ramadan is actually a fascinating experience and a great opportunity to see a whole new side to Morocco’s culture.
As a responsible traveller, before you travel there during the Muslim holy month, you’ll want to research a few things about Ramadan and what impact it may have on your holiday.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month-long Islamic holiday dedicated to fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam (the other 4 are giving to the poor, daily prayers, saying the Shahadah and making the pilgrimage to Mecca). It occurs during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, which is based on the moon, so the dates change every year. In 2018 it will start on Wednesday, the 16th of May and will continue for 30 days until Thursday, the 14th of June.
During this month, Muslims abstain from alcohol, tobacco and sex, and, from sunrise to sunset each day, they abstain from eating and drinking as well. This is broken by a meal at sunset (iftar) and then a pre-dawn meal (suhoor), after which another day of fasting begins. The only exceptions are those who are ill, pregnant, or under 16 years of age.
Ramadan ends with a holiday known as Eid el-Fitr, which consists of three days of feasting with family and friends, with children often given presents or money during this time.
What to do in Morocco during Ramadan
Marrakech Souk Alleyway. Image via G Adventures
- Do book ahead – because many venues, accommodation, tours and transport operate at reduced hours during Ramadan, it is wise to book your holiday itinerary before you arrive.
- Do respect the local customs – know the local laws regarding Ramadan and dress more conservatively than you normally might.
- Do join in – Ramadan is a time of great hospitality and generosity, particularly after the sun goes down, so if you are invited to a party or family gathering, don’t miss the opportunity.
What not to do in Morocco during Ramadan
Blue gate in Fes. Image via G Adventures
- Don’t eat and drink openly on the street – while Moroccans don’t expect non-Muslims to fast, it is common courtesy not to flaunt the fact while they are fasting. Restaurants, cafes, and other eating establishments will mostly remain open, so of course, eating inside these places is expected and those working there will be used to seeing tourists eat.
- Don’t smoke in front of the locals – many Moroccans are smokers and may be experiencing nicotine withdrawals during Ramadan, so again, best not to flaunt the fact that you’re able to smoke in front of them.
- Don’t be alarmed if you hear cannons – these aren’t an act of war, but are fired each day by Moroccan officials to mark the beginning and end of fasting.
Other useful tips
Most restaurants will remain open, so you can try some delicious Moroccan food. Image via G Adventures
- The majority of restaurants and cafes remain open throughout Ramadan, so don’t worry about being able to find food in Morocco.
- The streets are practically deserted in the daytime during Ramadan, so if you don’t like big crowds, this could be the perfect time to explore as it is very quiet.
- Morocco is a very hot country and a combination of fasting and sleep deprivation can make tempers flare amongst locals at times, so always be polite and don’t take it too seriously if you see a heated discussion.
- While alcohol is not widely available in Morocco, particularly during Ramadan, you can still buy it at some supermarkets during certain hours, but you’ll need to present your passport to prove you’re not a local.
- Photographers are expected to request permission before taking pictures of people or their belongings, so remember to ask before you start snapping.
- If you can, try and stay off the roads an hour or so before sunset, as everyone is heading out for their first meal of the day and traffic is notoriously bad.
Travelling to Morocco during Ramadan is certainly different to visiting at other times of the year – but that’s all the more reason to experience it at least once. After all, travelling is all about getting an insight into local cultures and different ways of life.
Title image credit: Ait Benhaddou, Morroco. Image via G Adventures
Joe’s unquenchable thirst to see the world has taken him to North & Central America, across Asia, through Europe and around Oceania. Flying his British nest to travel, Joe has paused in Melbourne, Australia, where he can be found pursuing his love of travel working at G Adventures.
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