Six Tips for Traveling During the Holy Month of Ramadan
Ramadan Mubarak! The moon has been spotted and our Muslim brethren are on for a month of fasting, kindness and self-sacrifice. But what about the Traveler? This season may call for more than just the usual suitcase for the business traveler and the rucksack for the backpacker. The Holy Month of Ramadan may bring with it a few changes in the hotel meal times, safari trips or even business meetings. Here are a few guidelines on what to expect and how to experience your trip to the maximum during this revered season.
Understand the Season
Ramadan sees to the accomplishment of one of the five pillars of Islam; sawm or fasting. It’s a period not only dedicated to self-sacrifice in search of spiritual rejuvenation, but also the act of Zakat or charity. The faithful are expected to abstain from food, sex and smoking between sun rise and sun-set, with each region having a slightly different timing for breaking the fast with the meal commonly known as iftar. Although non-Muslims will not be expected to fast, it may be considered impolite to be seen feasting when others are trying hard to keep off the temptation. Remember to carry gifts when invited for meals/celebrations and also graciously accept gifts when offered, it’s a month of sharing and kindness. Also, seek counsel on the iftar times in the region you are visiting and plan your meals and parties around this time. Otherwise you might be the only guest to grace your soiree!
Your Potters, Chef and Chauffeur
Note that although business may appear to run as usual in most places, it’s not very unlikely that part of your service staff may be fasting and especially in regions/towns with residents of the Muslim faith. Try and be a little patient; the energy levels may be low, and the tour guide may sound less enthusiastic than described in the Trust Pilot review! Do not panic, or second guess your choice, just slow down and indulge them a bit. You’ll be surprised how far a small act of understanding can go.
Pack your meals and water Bottles
This especially applies to smaller towns than in major cities. Most eateries and restaurants will be closed throughout the day till the breaking of the fast. If travelling to the rural towns of the East African coast and especially remote sections of Malindi, Lamu and the North Eastern part of Kenya; it’s important that you walk with your snacks, packed day time meals and water. Still, remember it’s impolite to eat publicly, do remember to be discreet.
Dressing, and Public Display of Affection
Whether you’ve been to the destination before or not, it is advisable that you dress a little more conservatively during this season than you would in the other months! Avoid clothing that may be considered a little too revealing as it may offend the locals. Also, keep in mind that the rest of the population is abstaining from sex, and be a little discreet with any actions that may be deemed inappropriate.
Getting on With the Flow
The main meals of the day, iftar at sun down and suhoor at dawn break will be served at different times in respective regions. This goes to say that your business trip or family vacation may have to adapt to the new schedule if you want to fully experience the people and culture. Note the important times and accept invitations to overnight parties, food tents along the streets, nightly festivities in every other homestead and general party atmosphere, leading to a very chilled-out day. If on business, avoid planning meetings over lunch time or too late in the afternoon as this may coincide with the prayer times of your associates. Non-Muslims are welcome to most of these parties, just observe basic politeness like carrying gifts for your host, dressing and behaving in accordance with the customs.
One more Thing… Relax and Participate
So you are scared everyone knows you are not fasting? Relax. Remember this is a religious calling and just like in any other faith, you may find a few exceptions. For instance, there are Christians who do not fast through Lent, take heart! You can consider taking part for a day or two and share the experience with your Muslim hosts; it’s a good way of letting them know that you appreciate their culture and religion. That said, enjoy your Ramadan travel, and Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters!
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