How can you prepare for a trip to Morocco during Ramadan? Are the restaurants and food stores open for foreigners? What should you expect and what do you need to know if you plan to visit Morocco during Ramadan?
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Morocco, all in all almost two years. Over the course of that time, I saw different parts of the country and learned loads about the Moroccan culture.
It’s a place that I’ve fallen in love with and to which I keep going back to. Now for the second time, I’m going to travel in the country during Ramadan.
For non-Muslims, Ramadan probably sounds like a very demanding month and the idea of being in Morocco during that time might seem a bit disconcerting. We are after all not used to fasting from dawn till dusk.
In Ramadan, it’s still possible to buy nuts but no one is allowed to eat during the day…
And fasting isn’t the only challenge during Ramadan. Imagine not drinking any water or coffee, not smoking any cigarettes (if you’re a smoker) and not having sex. Obviously coffee is what I would miss the most.
Now picture hundreds of thousands of people in your city collectively facing those challenges. That’s a lot of tense, hungry, jittery people rubbing shoulders in the streets.
What about the locals? Don’t Moroccans become easily irritated during Ramadan? How does not eating and drinking for thirteen hours at a time affect them?
Imagine thousands of people fasting at the same time…
Moroccans will tell you that this experience brings them closer to God. That they feel ecstatic and happy while fasting and that spending all those hours without eating is actually not that hard.
Ramadan definitely feels like a sacred moment in a way and people spend more time with their families and loved ones during that month.
Morocco becomes a really different place during Ramadan, that’s for sure, and a lot of travelers anticipate problems and inconveniences when traveling to Muslim countries at that time of the year.
But how is it really to travel to Morocco during Ramadan? Is it as challenging as it sounds? How can foreigners prepare for a trip to a Muslim country during Ramadan if they don’t want to fast?
And what if you’re not Muslim but you’d like to fast in Morocco during Ramadan? How should you do it?
If you keep reading I’ll show you that there is no reason to put aside your plan of traveling to Morocco during Ramadan and that it can actually turn out to be a much more interesting and enriching experience to travel during that sacred month.
1. What exactly is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a month-long Islamic holiday. It’s not celebrated at fixed dates because the Islamic calendar follows a lunar pattern. This means that every year, Ramadan is pushed by 10 days.
During this month, Muslims spend part of their day fasting. This fast isn’t only limited to food, it also includes water, coffee, and juices. The day begins early. People wake up around 4 am to have a meal right before the sun rises. After that, they’re not allowed to eat until the sun has set.
Once that happens, people are allowed to eat again and they break their fast in the company of family, colleagues or friends.
They eat a hearty meal composed of Harira soup, sweets, pastries, and fruits. In the evening, once they have eaten, many Muslims will then attend special prayers in the mosques.
Ramadan is meant to be a time when people reflect on their blessings and good fortune and it’s also an opportunity for Muslims to understand the suffering of those who don’t have food or water.
During this period of time, Muslims will try to enhance the good in their lives while practicing to resist sin. This annual ritual is also regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
2. What should foreigners expect during Ramadan in Morocco?
Before I traveled to Morocco for the first time, I thought that Ramadan had to be strictly followed, even by foreigners. I was sure that if I got caught drinking water in public, I would end up in big trouble, either kicked out of the country or even worst, put in jail.
I was totally convinced that it would be impossible to find any restaurant or convenience stores selling food during the day. I found out this isn’t exactly the case. Morocco is quite lenient when it comes to Ramadan and especially towards foreigners.
Before I traveled to Morocco, I had no idea what to expect during Ramadan…
What to expect in the day during Ramadan
A lot of convenience stores are not open in the morning but in the afternoon you can buy food and water at a few corner stores. Buying food during the day isn’t really the problem, the hardest part is finding food stores that are open.
The same goes for restaurants as only a small amount stays open for foreigners during the month.
A lot of restaurants and food stalls are closed during Ramadan…
The best and easiest way is to eat and drink in the privacy of your hotel room in the daytime. Same goes for smoking. Foreigners shouldn’t have any problem if they smoke within the compound of their accommodation in Morocco.
Even if you choose not to participate in Ramadan, I would advise not to eat, smoke or drink in public. It’s a way of showing respect to the culture and religion and Moroccans will appreciate your effort.
Avoid smoking, eating, and drinking during Ramadan unless you’re in the privacy of your hotel or riad…
What to expect after sunset during Ramadan in Morocco
After sunset, however, things are completely different. Some restaurants are open from 6 pm until 1 o’clock in the morning. Even big food stores like Carrefour and Acima are open until 1 AM.
A lot of Moroccans invite their friends and family to eat and break the fast with them. It might happen that they will receive you, as a traveler, as well.
Moroccans show particular hospitality to foreigners who are traveling alone during Ramadan.
After sunset, men will break the fast in the company of their friends and family…
It’s quite festive to see people gathered around a huge table filled with delicious Moroccan dishes and splurge on all that food.
Another cool thing is that a lot of restaurants in Morocco will have a special menu for the evening during Ramadan. They offer what is called the ”iftar” or the evening meal.
This meal is often composed of dates, ”Harira soup” and ‘Briouats”. It’s hearty, sweet, and energizing after a long day on an empty stomach.
A good fruit juice is also a perfect way to break a fast during Ramadan in Morocco…
What happens after Ramadan in Morocco?
The day that follows Ramadan and that marks the end of the fast is very special for Muslims.
It’s called Eid al-Fitr and it’s a very important Muslim holiday. It’s often referred to as the small Eid.
During that day, Muslims will do special group prayers, give donations to the poorest of their communities and congratulate each other for going through the fasting period.
What do people eat in Morocco during Eid al-Fitr?
Because Eid al-Fitr is mainly a time when families get together, a huge tagine is often the typical meal. It’s served with bread, fresh fruits, and delicious Moroccan tea.
A great meal after a month of fasting is a hearty tagine…
Another popular meal is chicken with lemon and olives. During Eid al-Fitr, all the relatives will be invited to share these savory dishes.
I fasted for the last two weeks of Ramadan when I use to live in Tangier. I remember the Eid al-Fitr meals being the most delicious meals I ever had. The chicken tagine was so tasty after just a few weeks of fasting, I can’t imagine what it must taste like after a whole month.
Are you planning to travel to Morocco soon?
2. Do all Moroccans fast during Ramadan?
While I was traveling around the country, I also discovered that a good amount of Moroccans don’t fast during Ramadan. They will, however, be very discreet not to eat, drink or smoke in public and will only do so in the privacy of their home.
I don’t think Moroccans are very vocal about not fasting and if they decide to eat during Ramadan, they probably won’t tell anyone except those in their close circle of friends.
Kids don’t have to fast during Ramadan…
Women that are having their periods can also abstain from fasting and from a variety of religious duties that are otherwise considered obligatory, including ritual prayers.
The fasting days missed due to menstruation have to be made up as soon as possible and some women will even fast for a few extra days after Ramadan to make up for the days they skipped.
Sick and old people can abstain from fasting without having to catch up for those days later.
Coming to Morocco soon?
Read: Morocco on a budget
3. Should you travel to Morocco during Ramadan and will it affect your holiday?
This is a good question. It all depends on what kind of experiences you want to have while you’re in Morocco.
If you travel to the country with the intention of partying and going for shopping sprees in Rabat, it might be the worst time of the year to be there.
If you’re going there to discover an incredibly interesting part of the Moroccan culture, then I would strongly advise traveling to Morocco during Ramadan.
You should consider that Ramadan falls on a different date every year. When Ramadan happens during summer, the hours of fasting are considerably longer and this combined with the extreme heat in Morocco can make it much harder for both locals and foreigners.
It’s better to look for a bit of shade when Ramadan is in summer…
If you can only come to Morocco for a short while, I would recommend coming towards the end of Ramadan so you also get to see the Eid al Fitr, the celebration that follows the month of fasting. It’s a day when people make donations to the poor and feast to celebrate the fast they went through.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of traveling to Morocco during Ramadan:
The good sides of being in Morocco during Ramadan:
The first reason to visit Morocco during Ramadan is that you’ll have the chance to see an event that only happens for one month every year. You’ll get to see a very important part of the Moroccan culture and witness an event that is sacred to Muslims.
People will often invite you to break the fast with them and share the ”Iftar” (the meal after the daily fasting).
Another great side of traveling to Morocco during Ramadan is that the accommodation in major cities tends to be slightly cheaper during that period.
A lot of friendly Moroccans will invite you to break the fast with them and have some tea…
The downsides of traveling to Morocco during Ramadan:
While Ramadan is very interesting to witness, if you’re a foreigner and you don’t intend on fasting, being in the country at that time of the year requires a certain degree of preparation.
You’ll need to stock up on food in the evening to have something to eat the day after, otherwise you might have a hard time hunting down the few corner stores that remain open during the day.
Keep in mind that you won’t find any street food stalls. In some bigger cities, you might find a few restaurants that are open to foreigners but if you’re traveling in rural areas, you won’t find anything.
In rural areas, it will be much harder to find food stores open during the day…
4. How do Moroccans greet each other during Ramadan?
Moroccans will greet each other with the sentence Ramadan Mubarak to which they will usually answer with Ramadan Kareem.
These are polite expressions that people use to wish each other a happy Ramadan. They can be used throughout the whole month of Ramadan and not necessarily only at the beginning.
If you travel to Morocco during that time period, you should definitely try using these expressions. Moroccans will love seeing that you’re putting the effort in learning their language.
For more useful expressions, read:
5. How can you prepare for Ramadan in Morocco if you don’t want to fast?
Moroccans don’t usually expect foreigners to fast during Ramadan. Because of this a lot of snack stores will remain open from the afternoon until the evening. Bakeries also stay open for people to be able to buy the bread and pastries they will eat with their meal after sunset.
My suggestion would be to already get your breakfast the evening before. Moroccans tend to go to bed very late during Ramadan so food stores stay open late at night, however, they don’t open before the late afternoon.
Fruit and vegetable markets stay open during the day in Ramadan…
It’s also going to be crucial to buy enough water ahead of time just in case you wouldn’t find any open stores.
It’s safe to drink tap water in Morocco but only if you know beforehand if the town or city properly filters its water. Although a lot of major cities in Morocco have good filtering systems, some of them still don’t.
Opt for bottled water or use a LifeStraw Water Filter Bottle to filter the tap water during your first days in Morocco as you don’t know how your body might react to the bacteria composition of the local water.
I hope you’ll enjoy your time in Morocco during Ramadan. Have you ever traveled to another Muslim country during Ramadan? How were your experiences? Would you recommend it or not?
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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – MOROCCO TRAVEL TIPS:
- A few travel tips for Morocco:
- Everything you need to know about traveling independently in Morocco (visa, how to get to and around Morocco, where to stay,…):
The Ultimate Travel Guide to Backpacking in Morocco
- Morocco travel costs:
Morocco on a budget – How much does it cost to travel and live in Morocco?
- Hiking and nature trips in Morocco:
- The Complete Guide to Imlil and Hiking Mount Toubkal in Morocco
- Everything you need to know about visiting the Ouzoud Waterfalls
- Rock climbing and other fun things to do in the Todra Gorges and Tinerhir
- How to get to the Akchour Waterfalls from Chefchaouen (Morocco)
- How to plan a desert trip to Merzouga and other fun things to do in the Sahara
- Our Moroccan city guides:
- FEZ: In Photos: Visiting the Leather Tanneries of Fez
- TANGIER: Top Things to Do in Tangier – The Ultimate City Guide
- ESSAOUIRA: An In-Depth Guide to Essaouira, Morocco’s windy city
- CHEFCHAOUEN: 12 Top things to do in and around Chefchaouen, the Blue City of Morocco
- RABAT: 10 things to see and do in Rabat
- MEKNES: The honest guide to Meknes and Volubilis– What to see and what to skip
- Our budget accommodation guides:
MOROCCO TRAVEL RESOURCES:
- Accommodation & Lodging in Morocco: Booking.com
- Car rental in Morocco
- Travel Insurance for Morocco: World Nomads or SafetyWing
- Books and guides about Morocco: