Ramadan in 2015 will start about the 18th June. Because the actual dates depend on sightings of the crescent moon we will not know the anticipated dates until 10 days before, and then finally with the sightings.
Significance of Ramadan
Ramadan is the period when Muslims the world over fast from before sunrise to sunset. Fasting means that nothing should pass the lips, that is not eat, drink or smoke. It is a time of patience, humility and spirituality, which means doing everything in moderation and thinking of others less fortunate than themselves.
The evenings and night times are more a time of community gathering, spending time with family and friends, so there can be a festive atmosphere. Most Moroccans see the fasting as a challenge, and will endeavour to comply. It is illegal for Moroccans to eat in public during the fasting times, and to purchase alcohol at any time.
Ftour, or breakfast, at sunset becomes a significant meal and usually comprises dates, hariria – a special soup, and sweet pastries. Later meals in the night can become almost banquets.
It is the time when the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet, and this is commemorated particularly on the night of Laylat al Qadr, it is about 6-10 nights before the end of Ramadan, when many Muslims will attend all night recitations of the Qur’an in different mosques around the city.
Last year celebrated Imams, renowned for their recitations, were featured in several mosques around Marrakech. For any Muslims who can attend, these can be especially magical.
In Morocco, Eid el Sghrir, the small festival marks the end of Ramadan. It is a public holiday with more dressing up and celebrations.
How will it effect my visit to Marrakech?
People will be focusing less on worldly affairs, so all businesses will open for shorter hours, and people will generally be less focused on work.
The effect of no food, drink and cigarettes is noticeable in the streets in the afternoon, as some people become more fractious. In the afternoon as shopping gets underway for the evening meal the food souks can get very crowded and animated.
It is strongly advised that you do not eat, drink nor smoke in public view, and refrain from strong perfumes during the hours of fasting. Not only is this respectful of local customs, it shows a consideration for your hosts which can only enhance their view of you. In previous years restaurants have opened at lunchtime for tourists. Evening dinner may start a little later so that staff can eat ftour.
In the Riad during Ramadan
In the Riad we will try provide the usual high level of service, but we ask guests to be patient during the afternoon, when staff will be very low in energy, and to let them take ftour at sunset, around 19.00. We will not book the Riad to full capacity to make it more manageable. For those who decide to try a little Ramadan, maybe not eating during the day, we can prepare a traditional ftour. I find taking ftour with locals after having fasted a bit can be a very moving experience.
Excursions during Ramadan
We will still be able to offer day excursions into the Atlas, though they might be adjusted a bit. The desert is 12hours drive time away and in our view should not be attempted with a driver who is fasting. We have located a company that uses non-Muslim drivers, but they will want minimum 4 people for a desert visit. Be prepared that your dates do not fit with anyone else.
If you come to Marrakech and Morocco during you will experience a very diferent Morocco. If you are prepared and come with an open mind it can be a very different and rewarding experience