by Betty Nguyen
Coincidentally our trip to Morocco also occurred during Ramadan week. Ramadan does present a few challenges to visitors but it doesn’t mean all is lost. Here are some of the most common questions people have about our Ramadan trip.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is considered the holiest month for Muslims and one which most people in Morocco participate in at least some way. Observant Muslims fast from food, all liquids, smoking, any sexual interaction and impure or bad thoughts from sunrise to sunset every day for the month. They also visit the mosque and preform additional prayers and religious tasks during this time.
At sunset, after the 4th call to prayer, an iftar (breakfast) occurs. During this time you will likely discover the streets of even the largest Moroccan cities are completely deserted as people are in their homes to eat.
Why does it matter if I visit during this time?
In some ways, it doesn’t. For the most part, you will likely have a different experience if you come during Ramadan. Fasting can cause people to be hangry, so it’s not uncommon to see outbursts.
We discovered that some shops and restaurants were not open. Most will have revised hours where they will open later and close earlier; this includes national monuments, banks and more.
From the hours of 7pm – 9pm don't expect to do much. We returned to our riad and laid low respectfully. After 9pm, some businesses will open again as people go outside, especially during summer time. People will eat dinner around 11pm or midnight so they will stay up much later.
Given that, people will sleep in later. Don't expect anything to open before 10am.
People make it a point to pray at the mosque nightly so you will find some streets closed to accommodate people. Mosques will use loudspeakers in some instances and you can hear it nightly in some neighborhoods.
Are there rules visitors need to follow during Ramadan?
There are no legal rules that you should follow however there are ways you can still be a good guest if you’re visiting during Ramadan.
The first is to dress more conservatively. As mentioned this is a month where people really are trying to focus on religious devotion. Covering up bare skin when walking in public during the daytime is a polite gesture for everyone.
It is illegal for Moroccans to eat and drink in public during Ramadan unless they meet special requirements where they don’t need to fast (such as illness, small children, or pregnancy). These rules do not apply to visitors or non-Muslims however avoid eating on the street. Eat inside restaurants and being discreet is appreciated.
Finally, alcohol is NOT sold beginning the 10 days before Ramadan and throughout the month. It is HIGHLY frowned upon to drink during this month and especially to show any public drunkenness. Some riads, hotels and nightclubs may still sell alcohol.
Should I visit during Ramadan?
You should think about it before you book your trip. You should consider the type of traveler you are and the experiences you want to have.
If you’re coming to party and shop, then Ramadan might not be the best month to make your trip. If you want to experience a unique cultural experience then Ramadan could be a really great time for you to come.
As non-Muslims we couldn't enter the mosques, but when we passed by a mosque at the end of the fasting day, we witnessed people praying and it truly was a touching experience. This is especially true in big mosques like Koutoubia in Marrakech. Be mindful and don’t take pictures but take a moment to respectfully observe.
In short, Ramadan does present unique challenges but it also provides an amazing learning and cultural experience that is difficult to replicate anywhere else.
Be sure to check out our curated Morocco tours which we've experienced first-hand. Our tour guides and drivers are safe and respectful, our hand-selected riads are beautiful, and our unique experiences are truly memorable.
Questions? Leave your comments below.