The holy month of Ramadan is underway and runs from 20 July 2012 for 30 days into August. Ramadan is the most important and most universally observed Muslim holiday and is a month-long period that celebrates among other Muslim traditions the first days that Mohammed was given the first verses of the Qur’an through inspiration. Ramadan was originally a month-long declaration of cessation of hostilities between Arab tribes and was later incorporated into Muslim religious observances.
The dates of observance of Ramadan are based on the first observation of the crescent moon and varies from year to year based on the Islamic lunar calendar. If you are traveling in any Muslim country you can easily check the dates for Ramadan through various internet calendar sites.
Ramadan observances that are universal across the world are fasting from dawn to sunset, an increased offering of prayers and an attitude of piety as well as celebration.
Tips for tourists travelling during Ramadan
The sale of alcohol may be limited during Ramadan including within your hotel and guesthouse. Some countries do not allow eating or drinking in public during the holy month, visitors included. Its polite in any case to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public places, regardless of whether its enforced or not. This is part of the culture that you’ve travelled to immerse yourself in.
Business hours may be amended within banks, offices and restaurants. And public transport may become congested within key times.
Iftar is the period following sunset when friends and family come together to enjoy a meal to mark the end of the day’s fasting.
Eid marks the end of the Ramadan fasting period and the Eid-ul-Fitr festival lasts for three days which will impact on your visit.
Countries that are currently observing Ramadan include some popular tourist destinations such as; Indonesia (including Bali), Maldives, Malaysia, Albania, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
Basic Ramadan information
Each Muslim sect celebrates Ramadan slightly differently. The majority of religious observances are the same throughout the Muslim world but there is some slight variation from sect to sect. Your travels will be more enjoyable if you familiarize yourself with the predominant sect of Islam in the areas that you will be visiting.
The observation of Ramadan varies from country to country. There are some countries that have legal punishments for breaking the rules of observance of Ramadan but most do not. You should ask the Embassy from your country what the laws are in the country you are visiting and act accordingly. All you really need to remember as a traveller is that some Muslims take the observance of Ramadan and the tenets of their beliefs very seriously and expect visitors to be scrupulous in the observance of Ramadan’s rituals.
Each Muslim person is different. Every Muslim does not think the same. The variety of religious piety and strict observance of ritual in the Muslim world is as varied as the observance of any religion in your home country or any other country.
How to plan for travel
If you do not want to fast buy food you can store and eat in your hotel room in private the night before. This simple practice makes it easy for you to eat if you wish and keeps you from offending the dignity and beliefs of people who are your hosts.
If you accidentally break one of the tenets of Ramadan you may experience a stern lecture but little else will happen to you. Many Muslims speak a variety of languages and will usually kindly and perhaps sternly inform you that you are not observing one of the Ramadan traditions and ask you to refrain from doing so.
You will enjoy your trip more if you participate in the fasting and prayer in a Mosque during Ramadan. The effort to show respect for Muslim’s beliefs will make the best impression you could possibly make during the most holy of days to Muslims. If you are visiting a Muslim country for business this simple act can earn you the respect and business that you are there for in the first place.
Ramadan tips and advice
• Do your homework and know how Ramadan is celebrated in the country you are visiting
• Be respectful of the traditions and beliefs of others.
• Participate in the Ramadan observances and the celebration of Eid that follows the end of Ramadan.
By Julie Bowman