Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting which culminates in a time of celebration marked by three day’s feasting known as Eid-ul-Fitr when the fast is over. Ramadan can be compared to Lent in the Christian church calendar and like Easter, it is not fixed to a certain time each year. Thus it can be especially difficult for devout Muslims to undertake when it occurs in the height of the summer season in a hot climate.
No smoking, drinking or eating is permitted during daylight hours. In Muslim countries foreigners are not expected to participate in the Ramadan fast but it is wise to be discreet and respectful and to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset.
From dawn to dusk throughout the whole month of Ramadan, even water is not allowed to pass one´s lips for the strict Muslim except for the very young, the elderly and infirm and pregnant women. Natives of Muslim countries tend to stay indoors during the heat of the day during Ramadan which is common sense in order to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration. They will enjoy a family gathering after sunset when eating and drinking is again permissible. Ending the fast at sunset each day is known as Iftar and this can often be an extremely busy and noisy time of day when everyone becomes more active in the evening as the heat of the day subsides.
The daytime during Ramadan is intended as a spiritual time for praying and quiet contemplation which is said to be better achieved if bodily needs are given less thought.
Foreign visitors will often find that many attractions close down completely during the period of Ramadan. Residents in some Muslim countries may be less liberal than in others so it would be wise to do your research before the date of your holiday so you know exactly what to expect.
Spending Ramadan in a predominantly Muslim country can be a positive thing or a negative thing depending on your expectations. For instance eating out for lunch could be a problem as those restaurants that would normally be open may be closed or will only be able to offer a restricted menu selection such as pizza or food that does not take a lot of preparation. It is best to be aware that business hours will be shorter and arrangements of any sort will take longer than usual so allow yourself plenty of time to complete any travel plans.
Restaurants come alive at night when it is possible to purchase an ‘All you can eat’ Ramadan special usually consisting of a self-serve platter of various foods.
If you don’t mind having a fair stretch of beach all to yourself and are not particularly ‘a people person’ this could be the ideal time to travel. You may be able to find some great self-catering reductions where you can make the most of this rare peace and solitude. The sun will be just as hot as it is in other countries in high season but you can relax and enjoy your holiday at a more leisurely pace in a less crowded environment.
Ramadan in 2012 is from 20th July to 18Th August and this will have a detrimental effect on the summer season from the point of view of bookings if you own a holiday home in a Muslim country. You will no doubt need to reduce your prices considerably to find clients. Unlike Christmas when holiday prices go up, the same does not apply during Ramadan! This will happen for the next couple of years before Ramadan will become too early in the year to affect tourism. Muslim countries with a May to October holiday season such as Mediterranean Morocco and Tunisia will thus be very quiet over Ramadan.
Here are some travel ideas for those in search of some Mediterranean sunshine: Morocco travel ideas and Tunisia travel ideas
Generally speaking, remember when travelling to any foreign country where people have unfamiliar customs and religious beliefs to always be respectful of their ways and be aware that they will not always thoroughly understand the things that are second nature to you. ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do,’ is always a good thought to bear in mind. Be ready to embrace other ideas and concepts which although alien to your own way of thinking may help you to see things from an entirely different perspective. You will be certain to develop a keen insight into the beliefs and values of other cultures.