Before we started planing our Moroccan adventure, my friend and I had managed to get pretty cheap flight tickets with Ryanair (tip: try to go somewhere else then Marrakech). Soon enough we had realized why they were even more low-cost than usual. The date of our trip was in June which is a month of Muslim holiday Ramadan, generally not a very popular time to travel to Muslim countries.
Quite frankly we were a bit worried in the beginning because, well, we are not Muslims and we love food 🙂 but we didn’t let it discourage us. And neither should you, traveling to Morocco during Ramadan is absolutely worth it!
WHAT IS RAMADAN?
Ramadan is a 9th month in the Muslim lunar calendar and a very important time for every Muslim. During this month, Muslims fast from all food and water from sunrise to sunset. In the evenings people break their fast with friends and family and wake up early before sunrise to eat a meal before beginning another day fasting. People are also meant to abstain from smoking cigarettes, having sex and gossiping. Ramadan is a time to reflect on the blessings each person has been given and to understand the suffering of those who live without having their basic needs such as food and water.
PROS AND CONS OF TRAVELLING DURING RAMADAN
The first question that came to our mind was: are we going to be able to get food and drinks during the day? The answer is yes. Restaurants, cafes, and other similar establishments mostly remain open and are very happy to see costumers, especially in tourist places such as Marrakech. In the less touristy areas and smaller towns, you may have more difficulty finding places to eat, so keep that in mind and stock yourself for later.
Bottom line is – no one expects tourists to fast. Although it might be a good idea, out of respect to those fasting, not to walk around medina with a kebab in your hand, so eat inside of a restaurant and do not smoke in public. We drank in the public when we needed to, trying not to make it too obvious. It can be a bit challenging sometimes but Moroccan economy is quite dependent on tourism so most of the times dining wasn’t an issue.
Of course, traveling to Morocco during Ramadan has its ups and downs. The biggest advantage is that you have a chance to witness aspects of the culture that you would not experience at any other time of the year. At the end of the day cannons announce that it’s time to eat and worshiping people start making their way to the mosques. During the night time people are in the streets eating and socializing which is an exciting observation. Another benefit is sharing the country with fewer tourists as more people try to avoid coming to Morocco during Ramadan.
On the other hand you may find that some shops are not open, at least in the early hours of the morning and close up right before sunset as the shopkeepers leave home for the sunset meal (known as ftour, breaking of the fast). In addition the energy level of people who fast is naturally getting quite low during the day which can affect services related to tourism.
RAMADAN WITH THE LOCALS
When visiting Morocco during Ramadan, make the most out of your time. From our experience Moroccans are generous people who want to share their Holiday with visitors so don’t be shy to engage and ask questions (while staying respectful, of course).
In the end I am happy we saw Morocco during the biggest Islamic event as it has made our experience even more authentic. We were lucky enough to be invited for iftar, the first meal taken after the sunset, in one of the traditional Moroccan homes. Most of the common areas of a typical house in Marrakech are located on a rooftop so we had our dinner under the stars. The feast prepared by the family was fabulous and so was the entire evening spent by eating, drinking mint tea and chatting till very late hours. It turned out to be one of my favorite moments in Morocco.