By Karen Duarte
Rabat – Ramadan is the month-long Islamic holiday celebrated each year. During this holy month, tourists visiting Morocco will experience unique Moroccan and Islamic traditions and rituals.
Although Ramadan presents a few challenges to tourists, it is a beautiful time of the year to reflect on the blessings that life has to offer and to understand the suffering of those who go without basic necessities, such as food and water.
What does the month of Ramadan mean for those visiting?
If you are visiting Morocco during Ramadan, you will experience distinctive aspects of the culture that are only apparent once a year. Muslims fast from all food and water from dawn until sunset.
When it is time to break the fast you will hear the evening call to prayer, which is announced through a loudspeaker. After a long day fasting, the prayer excites many Muslims as they enjoy iftar (the breaking of the fast) with their family and friends.
After iftar, you will witness rows upon rows of people praying at mosques for the evening prayer, followed by a special prayer that is only recited during Ramadan. Around 11 p.m. or midnight dinner is served.
If you are visiting during the spiritual month of Ramadan, it is impossible not to connect with the unique local foods and traditions.
What changes during Ramadan?
As days become nights and nights become days, adjusting to the time and eating schedule might be challenging, so you may need a good measure of patience.
Everyone stays up late, and the following day do not expect to find anything open before 10 a.m. as people will sleep in much later than usual.
You might come upon some shops and restaurants that are not open at all during the day. Also, the majority of businesses (banks, supermarkets, and more) will have different store hours, closing early so that the workers can make it home in time for iftar.
Another thing to keep in mind when visiting is that monuments, historical sites, museums, and other tourist attractions might adjust their hours and will most likely close early.
Around 5:30-6:30 p.m. you will find a fast-paced crowd hurrying to prepare for iftar. Everything is quiet by 7:30 p.m. when family and friends are gathering to eat iftar. Then, at 9:30 p.m. restaurants, cafes, and local vendors in the medina (old walled city) begin to open again. Business booms as everyone takes a stroll through the medina to shop and to walk off all the food they ate during iftar.
Most importantly, you should be aware of the time change. While Morocco adopts Daylight Saving Time in the spring, the country moves back to standard time just before Ramadan, so the time changes back to Greenwich Mean Time.
“I am not Muslim. Do I have to fast?”
The answer is no. There are a few restaurants and cafes that remain open during the day and expect to serve non-fasting tourists or foreign residents.
It is forbidden for Moroccans to eat and drink in public, unless they have special conditions where they do not need to fast, such as an illness or pregnancy. The rules do not apply to visitors or non-Muslims; however, everyone fasting will greatly appreciate it if you avoid eating in public.
You may consider eating inside a restaurant or wherever you are staying (hotel, airbnb, host family, etc).
“Any special experiences I should have during my Ramadan visit?”
Everyone visiting Morocco during Ramadan should experience a traditional Moroccan iftar, which consists of spiced harira soup, Moroccan brochettes, hard-boiled eggs, dates, sweet pastries, batbout (bread), and fresh-squeezed juices.
Being invited to someone’s house for iftar is ideal, because you will experience a traditional iftar with family and friends celebrating an exciting holy month.
Do not worry if you cannot attend iftar at someone’s house. Many restaurants and hotels offer traditional, authentic iftar meals, which will still make a wonderful experience.
During the evening, make sure to stroll by a mosque and witness hundreds of Muslims worshipping together as it is truly a memorable experience. One mosque that you might want to visit is the largest mosque in Morocco, the Hassan II Mosque located in Casablanca.
Lastly, interact with Moroccans you encounter and ask them questions about Ramadan and learn what this holiday means to them.
Ramadan might present challenges to tourists visiting Morocco, but it is also an eye-opening cultural experience that you will not discover elsewhere.
This feature is part of an exclusive series at Morocco World News for Ramadan. Also in the series is: