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Advice for travellers visiting the Middle East during Ramadan

Advice for travellers visiting the Middle East during Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is well underway, which means the majority of people in the Middle East are currently fasting during daylight hours. If you're planning to travel to destinations such as Egypt, Morocco, Abu Dhabi, Oman or Dubai where Islam is the major religion, it's worth doing some research into what Ramadan means for foreign visitors.

How you should behave will vary from place to place, but it's sensible to stick to the following guidance wherever you go to avoid causing offence.

Eating and drinking during Ramadan

One of the main things to steer clear of during Ramadan is eating and drinking in public - in many places this is considered disrespectful. Of course, if you're staying in your hotel it won't be an issue, but if you're out and about exploring the town or city, it's best to wait until you return to your accommodation before you have any refreshments.

It's worth noting that chewing gum and smoking are also frowned upon, because Muslims abstain from these habits too as nothing is allowed to pass their lips while they're fasting.

Ramadan dress code

Women in particular are expected to cover up when they're in public during Ramadan, so pack long skirts or loose trousers, as well as tops that will cover your shoulders and upper arms if you'll be travelling in the Middle East at this time of the year. For men, make sure you always wear a T-shirt and at least knee-length shorts when you're out and about.

Depending on where you're travelling, you may find most restaurants and cafes are closed during the day, although in tourist destinations there will usually be at least a few places open where you can get refreshments - they may just be hidden from the street.

Sunset is breakfast time during Ramadan

Never plan to do anything around sunset as this is breakfast time - known as Iftar in Arabic. Everyone will be with their families and friends breaking their fast, so aim to return from any excursions well before sunset and arrange for your evening activities to start once breakfast is over.

In some strictly Muslim countries, there can be fines for failing to adhere to certain rules (such as not eating, drinking or smoking in public) - if you are in any doubt about how to behave during Ramadan, ask for advice from your travel company before you depart.

Laura Rawlings

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Laura Rawlings

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