A month ago I went to Morocco, it was a last minute trip, and we ended up going during Ramadan. I found myself frantically Googling what it's like to visit in Ramadan and how much of a difference it makes, and I came across a mix of opinions. One helpful article reassured me, so I want to do the same, to tell people what it's really like and provide useful tips and advice.
Before we get into the details, in a nutshell, visiting Morocco in Ramadan is totally fine, it shouldn't hinder your trip, unless you plan on going on a bar crawl and want to consume copious amounts of alcohol that is. I'd go so far as actually recommending a visit to Morocco during this time of fasting, because it gives you a deeper insight into the culture and provides a more unique experience.
I went with me sister and we spent three days in Marrakesh and four days in Agadir, so we got a complete overview of how things are during this time in two popular holiday destinations. If you want to read all the juicy details about our entire trip, check out my previous article here (link to trip post).
Hang on, wait, what exactly is Ramadan again?
Just to refresh your memory, Ramadan is an Islamic holy festival where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and it's celebrated every year. No food or water is to be consumed during the fasting and people break the fast with friends and family at night and there's lots of celebrations. They also wake up early before sunrise to have a meal. During Ramadan there are certain restrictions on the sale of alcohol, but other than that it shouldn't impact your trip.
A sneak peek into a different culture - Ramadan in Morocco
Food and drink
Expect things to be a little quieter during this time, but don't fret, you can get food and (non alcoholic) drinks outside of your hotel in the day and evening in the main cities like Marrakesh and Agadir. Just don't go flaunting your chicken kebab or ice cream in front of those who may be fasting, as let's be honest, when you can't eat watching someone eating a tasty snack in front of you isn't fun, so be respectful.
But those of you who do enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two, fear not, you can consume alcohol within the comfort of your hotel (do check in advance with your hotel though just in case, but we had absolutely no issues and we stayed in three different hotels). And some of the bars do some tasty and refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails.
Breaking the fast
You will find a lot of the hotels put on a special Ramadan buffet and everyone shows up in the evening at sundown to enjoy tucking into a delicious selection of food after breaking their fast. Why not try one of these buffets to sample some of the things on the menu?
We got to sample some traditional Moroccan pastries made from honey and almonds. We were told these are paired with mint tea and consumed during Ramadan as a special treat, and I can see why. They were super sweet and quite moreish.
It's quite interesting watching all the locals gather and dine together and wondering what it would be like to fast all day long, which clearly takes a lot of self control and a deeper understanding of why you are doing it.
Late night celebrations
We found in the cities, things don't really get going until about 10pm. Why? Because the locals are all in their homes breaking the fast and having some food and drink until this time, and they come out to celebrate afterwards.
In Agadir they appeared to be partying on the beach until the very early hours of the morning. We could hear the celebrations and sense the atmosphere from our hotel balcony, though it didn't disturb us. Marrakesh tends to be at it's most vibrant and upbeat at around 10pm when the street performers are in full swing and locals gather in small crowds to admire their performances.
A quiet eeriness during certain times
There was one evening when we decided to walk into Marrakesh from our Hotel (Opera Plaza) and on the way in we noticed that everything was very quiet. It was as though time was standing still, and for a brief period, the city was sleeping.
The sun was about to set and the streets were empty of cars and people. Then we remembered it's Ramadan and the reason there was no one around is because they were probably all breaking their fast. So yes, it does go a bit quiet at times, but it's actually quite peaceful.
Excursions, things to do during Ramadan
When it comes to activities and excursions, nothing really changes. It's not like all the tour companies stop during this time. We went on numerous excursions and visited places around the city and everything was mostly open. You can still consume food and drink on the tours and enjoy yourself as usual. We went on city tours, a trip to Paradise Valley, to the markets and souks and on a camel ride.
I've mentioned in my previous posts that I would recommend covering up, both out of respect for the local culture, and also because you will feel more comfortable. I don't think the dress code varies at all during Ramadan, the same rules apply, cover your legs, shoulders and chest area.
In conclusion - should you still go? Yes!
I wouldn't be put off visiting during Ramadan, in fact, it may even be a nicer time to go because there's less tourists and you get a more authentic experience. You witness and experience things that you otherwise wouldn't if you went at any other time, you get to hear the prayer calling whilst enjoying a drink at a rooftop bar, or catch a glimpse of people laying their prayer mats in the street. I obviously can't speak for the entire country, you might go to other places and shops, bars and restaurants will be closed, but we didn't have any problems in Marrakesh and Agadir.
If you hear canons, don't panic, they just signal the start and end of the fasting. If you are travelling out of the major cities I'd recommend packing plenty of water and snacks just in case you can't get hold of food. It's best to either got to the souks in the morning or late evening, as the towns seem to be quiet in the afternoons. And that's it! Enjoy! Don't let the presence of Ramadan put you off going, it's a wonderful thing to experience.