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Travel to Morocco during Ramadan

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My son graduates this year and as a present I would like to take him to Morocco; however the only time he has available happens to fall during Ramadan. I read somewhere that restaurants and shops are likely to be closed at this time but have been told by a Moroccan guide that it is a non issue. Does anyone have any insight as to what might be closed, etc.?

Thanks so much.

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    It is a non-issue for most tourists, but you do have to plan around closures. Business doesn't stop in Muslim countries just because Ramadan is happening. Tourist sights and markets are still open, but food and drink are limited to hotels that service primarily foreigners. Some hours may be restricted, but it's certainly not a deal breaker. I was once in Egypt during Ramadan and hardly noticed, and at night everything really comes alive, making it a special time of the year.

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    Yes, it should be a non-issue for you. Just don't flaunt food or drink. Don't carry a bottle of water in your hand, for example. Tempers can be short at this time of year, esp. in the heat.

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    Sallam 'lekum Jeanne,

    Last year, we specifically chose the dates of our annual tour to include a few days of Ramadan. To add to the very knowledgeable comments from Doug and Bedar, here's the spiel that we included in our itinerary, which may help allay any concerns you may have:

    Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar—is when Mohammed received the first of his revelations from God, or as the Muslims describe it: when the Koran “was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation”. Ramadan in 2015 is expected to begin on the 18th of June, two days before the end of our safari.

    It is during Ramadan that Muslims observe a strict fast—originally modelled on similar Jewish and Christian practices—and is intended as a time of worship and contemplation. During the day all forms of consumption are forbidden including eating, smoking, drinking and any form of sexual contact. However, this is only the outward show of what is intended as a deeper, spiritual cleansing and strengthening of faith. One hadith says “There are many who fast all day and pray all night, but they gain nothing but hunger and sleeplessness.”

    All Muslims who have reached puberty and are able to do so are expected to observe the fast of Ramadan. It is generally accepted that the elderly and the chronically ill are ‘exempt’, as are those who are sick or travelling, mothers who are nursing, and menstruating or pregnant women, all of whom are encouraged to feed one poor person for every day of fasting missed. Children are also not required to fast, although their families may encourage them to do so for part of a day or for a few days during the month so as to begin to experience this particular aspect of Ramadan.

    At the end of the day the fast is broken with a light meal followed by the sunset prayer, which is then followed by an evening meal called the iftar. Muslims are encouraged to share iftar with family, friends and neighbors as well as the poor and non-Muslims. The fast is resumed the next morning, traditionally when “ you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight”. The last ten days of Ramadan are considered especially important and many Muslims retreat to their mosque or other community centres for prayer and reciting the Koran. Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power) is a special night of prayer commemorating Mohammed receiving the first revelation of the Koran. It is believed that this is when heaven is open to the faithful and God determines the course of the world for the following year. When the crescent of the new moon of the tenth month rises, Ramadan ends with Eid al-Fitr (Feast of Fast Breaking). The feast lasts for three days and besides an obviously religiously significant time, it is also a time for social festivities. Friends and family congregate to greet and congratulate each other, older family members and neighbors are visited and loved ones who have passed away are remembered. Villages and towns may also hold festivals or events to celebrate this time.

    How will Ramadan influence our 2015 Morocco Caravan? In a practical sense, our extensive knowledge of Morocco and Darren’s excellent relationship with our local guides, restaurants and accommodations will ensure that any inconvenience is minimal. Morocco is a relatively modern country and Moroccans understand that business must go on and that the non-Muslim world is still working and traveling. The most visible part of the Ramadan day for us is at the end of the day. The half hour or so before sunset is a frantic rush for Moroccans to finish their work, pack up their shop, and head home for the breaking of the fast. Some travelers complain of abrupt service and irregular opening hours during Ramadan, even the noise generated by masses of Moroccans enjoying the nightly ‘freedom’ from the fast—which can admittedly continue sometimes through to dawn. However, by simply displaying a bit of respect, knowledge and restraint we can at the very least still enjoy our travels, whilst showing even a hint of inquisitiveness can result in an invitation to share in some of the brotherhood and deep sense of faith that abounds in Morocco during Ramadan. We consider it an added bonus that we will experience a day or two of this truly spiritual time within Morocco, and we’re sure our fellow travelers will feel the same.

    Happy travels Jeanne and congratulations to your soon-to-be graduated son.
    Darren Humphrys

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