Visit an islamic country during Ramadan
One week ago Ramadan started in the islamic world and the same day I flew to Doha, Qatar where 90% of the population belongs to Islam. I had no clue about that so when the flight attendant told me I was like, okey it is how it is and it will be yet another dimension of experience to add to my trip. The religion is strong in Qatar and it is impossible to convert to another religion and if you try to there is a death penalty of doing so. I was assuming that the whole society would adapt to the tradition in a totally different way than when I experienced the holy month when living in Singapore but instead of thinking about it as an interruption of my trip I thought of it as an interesting thing to experience Ramadan close up.
How it works?
What most people know about Ramadan is that it is prohibited to eat, drink, smoke and have sexual contact between sunrise and sunset. The muslims are praying more than usual during this month and are also supposed to take extra care of near and dear ones. When the fast is over for the day everyone is gathering a festive meal, lftar.
In Doha the temperature was above 40 degrees and imagine trying to live your daily life when it is not allowed to drink? close to impossible. I also learnt that the working days was shortened during Ramadan at many workplaces in order to be able to perform. As a tourist it the days during Ramadan felt slow and closed down like the whole country was in Sunday mode.
How to get dressed?
First of all, the traditional muslim dressing still applies but non muslim visitors should be extra cautious and dress conservative meaning no beachwear in public places. For women long sleeved shirts and pants or a skirt covering the knees is to recommend and the same applies to men. So to sum up it is not that difficult: beachwear at the beach and think office attire elsewhere and you are fine.
When and where to eat?
The first thing about the eating and drinking rules during Ramadan that I got aware off was that no alcohol is going to be served during the holy month. Usually you can buy alcohol at hotels in Qatar but this period not even there. As I said eating and drinking is banned during the sunlight hours but some hotels offers meals to its guests during those hours but with limitations. When the fasting period is over for the day and the evening prayer have taken place the food ban is over and families, friends, colleagues and so on gathers for a big meal called Lftar. That meal traditionally starts with drinking sweet drinks and eating dates then usually a buffet style meal is served. When the whole month of fasting is over it is celebrated with a big party called Eid al fitr.
Personally I thought it was kind of tricky to find something to eat during the fasting period. Not even McDonald’s or Starbucks were open and the first day I could barely get hold of any water from supermarkets. Snacking at the pool was neither allowed but on the other hand I did not had a problem not eating during the day since it was so hot and then I do not get hungry.
The fact that you have to wear respectful clothing in muslim countries I do not see as a limitation in any way. I always get very excited to learn about culture and customs at places I travel to so now when I visited Doha during Ramadan I googled a lot about it and refreshed my high school knowledge. In the end it was more exciting than a stressful moment to be in Qatar during Ramadan and I do not think it is a reason to postpone a vacation to a muslim country rather a reason to go, see and explore!
Anyone else who has traveled to a muslim country during Ramadan? what was your experience? or maybe you are muslim and celebrate Ramadan in your own country. Tell me I am curious to know.
/ Pernilla that always dream about new experiences