Ramadan in Morocco: What You Need to Know
Ramadan in Morocco coincides with the dates observed in the wider Islamic world, occurring during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which follows the lunar cycle, in contrast to the solar calendar commonly used in the West. This unique characteristic causes Ramadan to shift to different dates each year. If you are planning to travel to Morocco, Best Morocco Travel recommends considering Ramadan. In the following paragraphs, we will elucidate the essence of Ramadan and provide valuable insights and guidance for travelers.
What Ramadan is Like in Morocco
In Morocco, Ramadan is observed with a strict adherence, particularly in public life. This month-long period requires all Muslims to fast during daylight hours and refrain from various temptations, including sexual relations and the use of substances like tobacco or drugs. This practice, deeply rooted in Islamic belief, is seen as a means of purifying the body and cultivating self-discipline.
As the day turns to night, the atmosphere undergoes a remarkable transformation. Moroccans, often gathered with family and friends, celebrate with great enthusiasm the successful completion of their daily fast. This festive and communal spirit fills the air, especially within the confines of homes.
Notably, Ramadan exerts a profound influence on urban life in Morocco. Cities take on a more subdued character, with many establishments closing their doors, and streets witnessing a notable reduction in activity during the daylight hours. This marked contrast to the lively atmosphere that emerges after sunset is a characteristic feature of Ramadan in Morocco, particularly within the intimate setting of family life.
Traveling to Morocco During Ramadan: Is it Recommended or Not?
Considering these factors, a pertinent question arises: Is traveling to Morocco during Ramadan truly worthwhile? As with many aspects of life, opinions diverge. Here, we present you with reasons both in favor of and against planning your Morocco trip during this unique period.
What Should I Expect in Ramadan?
Every evening, as the time to break the fast approaches, the resonating sound of cannons signals the moment. At this juncture, Muslims partake in a meal known as F’tour or iftar. Traditionally, this fast-breaking begins with a sip of water and a few dates, a gesture in homage to how Prophet Mohammed himself broke his fast. This modest meal marks just the commencement of a night filled with a bountiful feast.
Following F’tour, the streets come alive with the joyful sight of children playing and adults socializing with neighbors and friends. North African Muslims often extend their waking hours well beyond their usual bedtime, cherishing the opportunity to share meals and quality time with their families. It’s a highly social period. Before the break of dawn, they rise for another meal and then return to slumber to replenish their energy.
The culinary experiences during Ramadan are indeed special. This month brings forth a range of traditional dishes that are exclusively enjoyed during this time. Among the customary offerings are Harira (Moroccan soup), dates, and Chebakia, adding to the richness of the Ramadan experience.
Reasons Why it is Not Advisable to Travel to Morocco in Ramadan
In most cases, we do not recommend visiting Morocco during Ramadan, as the entire country adjusts to the rhythms of this sacred observance. Consequently, it’s common to encounter numerous establishments closed during the daytime. Additionally, many Moroccans take advantage of this time to enjoy their vacations, potentially diminishing the traveler’s opportunity to experience the country in its full splendor.
Another aspect to consider is the prevailing mood. Fasting and self-restraint entail both physical and mental exertion, which individuals tolerate differently. Consequently, during these days, it’s not uncommon to encounter Moroccans with a more somber disposition and reduced work enthusiasm. This change in demeanor is understandable given the considerable effort required for fasting. As a result, local people tend to be more sensitive during Ramadan, making it vital for visitors to exercise caution. Actions that might be innocuous on other occasions can be misconstrued as disrespectful during this sacred month.
Reasons to Know About Ramadan in Morocco
Conversely, Ramadan does not dissuade many travelers; instead, they perceive it as a captivating opportunity to delve into a distinctive facet of Moroccan culture.
Moreover, during this period, the country takes on a vibrant nocturnal life. The bustling souks become crowded with people, and an array of products, some of which are rarely seen or in limited supply on other occasions, grace the market stalls. Traveling during Ramadan possesses a unique allure, particularly for those tourists with an adventurous spirit and a keen interest in cultural and ethnographic aspects.
Nonetheless, it is our view that, for the majority of tourists, this season may pose more inconveniences than advantages. Consequently, we recommend that you ascertain the date of the upcoming holy month for Muslims and thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons before planning a trip that coincides with Ramadan in Morocco.
How Do I Respect Moroccan Culture During Ramadan?
You won’t face judgment for not participating in Ramadan, but it’s essential to uphold respect for the culture you are in.
Moroccans are exceptionally hospitable toward tourists and travelers, and they understand and respect different religious beliefs. They do not expect non-Muslims to fast during Ramadan.
Some ways to show respect for local culture during Ramadan:
Considerate Eating and Drinking: Avoid openly snacking or drinking from a water bottle while walking through the streets of Medina, especially during fasting hours. Try to do these activities in a more private setting. Also, refrain from smoking in public areas.
Mindful Dress: Dress modestly, particularly in North African countries, where modesty is highly regarded and emphasized, even more so during Ramadan. Avoid wearing shorts, miniskirts, and clothing that exposes bare shoulders.
Accept Invitations: If a local invites you to join in the breaking of the fast, whether for F’tour or Eid celebration, it’s a gracious gesture to accept. There is no better way to experience Ramadan than in the home of a local family. While this might lead to staying up later than your usual routine, it promises an irreplaceable cultural experience.
Ultimately, the decision to travel to Morocco during Ramadan is yours to make. While it may alter the course of your vacation to some extent, we believe that Ramadan offers a unique cultural experience that can be profoundly enriching.
When is Ramadan in Morocco
Ramadan is universally observed by Muslims worldwide, including in Morocco. The Islamic calendar, being lunar, is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar—consequently, the dates of Ramadan shift earlier by about 11 days each year. In 2023, Ramadan took place from March 22 to April 20.
Here are the projected Ramadan dates for the coming years. It’s important to note that these dates are approximate, and the official start may vary by one or two days, depending on the precise sighting of the crescent moon (Source: ING):
- 2024: March 11 through April 9
- 2025: March 1 – 29
- 2026: February 18 – March 19
If you are contemplating a visit to Morocco during Ramadan in the years ahead, understanding how this holy month is likely to influence your travel experience is essential.
After Ramadan Eid al-Fitr
After a month of fasting, Moroccans and Muslims worldwide celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr. This three-day festival is a time for prayers, festive meals, acts of charity, quality time with family and friends, and the gift of new clothing and treats to children. Because the precise date depends on the sighting of the moon, it’s not uncommon for the announcement of the date to occur just a few days before the festivities commence. Even the locals in Morocco eagerly awaited the official date marking the end of their fasting.
We were fortunate to experience Eid al-Fitr in Zagora, and it was truly a joyous occasion. In the early evening, we wandered through town, absorbing the vibrancy of the many people strolling the streets in their finest attire. The atmosphere was bustling and lively, a stark contrast to the more subdued weeks of Ramadan. People were in high spirits, smiling and greeting others for no specific reason. We enjoyed a pre-sunset meal at a small local restaurant and savored yogurt drinks on the sidewalk, a first since our arrival in Morocco at the start of Ramadan.
If you are considering traveling to Morocco during Eid al-Fitr, it’s important to note that there are two major “Eids” in the Islamic calendar. “Eid” means “celebration” or “festival” in Arabic. Therefore, it’s crucial to ascertain which one is being discussed when people mention traveling during Eid. Eid al-Fitr is the smallest of the two holidays, and we found it to have a relatively minor impact on our travels. Some smaller shops had irregular opening hours during the first couple of days of the holiday, but most things seemed to proceed as usual.
Eid al-Adha, the other “Eid,” occurs approximately 40 days after Eid al-Fitr. It is a longer and more significant holiday characterized by family gatherings and the sacrifice of sheep. When you hear about people traveling to be with their families during Eid, and as a result, many shops and attractions are closed, they are likely referring to Eid al-Adha. During this celebration, it may be challenging to travel, as the entire country is engrossed in their holiday festivities.