Visiting Morocco during Ramadan will lead you to discover a new identity in this vibrant country. Many non-Muslims are not familiar with the term “Ramadan” which is an important part of the year in all Muslim countries, including Morocco.
During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims adopt different traditions and customs which can present a few challenges to tourists visiting the country who have no idea about what is going on. In this post, I will explain what Ramadan is and what to expect if you visit Morocco during this month.
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What is Ramadan and why?
Ramadan is a holy month for all Muslims around the world when people perform the fifth pillar of Islam which is fasting “Sawm”. The purpose behind Ramadan is to follow Sunnah (The teaching of Muhammed the prophet) and to get closer to Allah by remembering those in need during this month.
During this month of Ramadan Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, smoking, sexual relations, and immoral acts between dawn and dusk. Also, performing other acts of worship such as extra prayers, reading the Quran, and charity during the holy month is highly recommended among Muslims during this month.
Although fasting is compulsory for all Muslims, certain people are exempt from fasting for justifiable reasons such as children under the age of 16, nursing mothers, pregnant women, sick people who cannot bear fasting, women in their menstruation period, and people traveling long distances.
Except for children, people who miss days need to re-observe the fast for every day they miss, after Ramadan by fasting or feeding the poor.
Ramadan’s conclusion is marked by Eid al-Fitr, which literally translates as “holiday for the breaking of the fast.” Eid al-Fitr is one of the two major Islamic holidays in Morocco. This holiday is when Muslims celebrate the end of a successful month of fasting and worshipping and it is usually a time for big family gatherings and elaborate feasts.
Morocco during Ramadan, what changes?
- Eating in public is not allowed for Moroccans and they can be punished for doing it unless they meet the previously mentioned requirements. But still eating and drinking in public is considered disrespectful to other worshippers and must be done discreetly. So, it is recommended not to eat or smoke in public during the day. You can always enjoy your food and drinks inside restaurants, hotels, or at home.
- Most local restaurants and cafes close for Ramadan or adjust their working hours to accommodate the Ramadan schedule. However, many tourist restaurants operate during normal hours.
- Many touring companies still operate during Ramadan. So, if you are traveling on a tour during the day, do not forget that the people working on the tour are fasting and it may be hard for them to provide the same service they would provide out of Ramadan. Also, try if possible to drink water discreetly if the weather is hot.
- During Ramadan, all the bars shut down for the whole month, and selling Alcohol to locals is strictly prohibited. Foreigners will be asked to show their identity to buy alcohol in all liquor stores.
- Iftar time is the important time of the day during Ramadan so many services will be delayed or stopped to allow workers to have their first meal after a long day of fasting.
- Transport lines and services run normally during Ramadan
When is next Ramadan in Morocco?
Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar calendar (Islamic calendar), therefore, its date changes annually on the Gregorian calendar moving ahead about 10 days.
To determine when the holy month starts Muslim countries tend to wait for the new month’s moon appearance to announce the first day of Ramadan. However, they can still estimate the day beforehand. When it’s impossible to spot the moon (for weather reasons) Ramadan’s first day will be estimated based on calculations.
Ramadan in Morocco Estimated date in 2023: March 23-April 23
Should I visit Morocco during Ramadan?
This is a difficult question to answer. I can’t say that Ramadan in Morocco is a bad time to visit but it is true that it can present unique challenges to tourists visiting Morocco in the holy month of Ramadan. It can also provide a cultural experience that is difficult to find elsewhere. So, to decide whether visiting Morocco during Ramadan is the right choice for you or not you should be able to measure your expectations and what you want from this visit.
If you are planning a trip of shopping and visiting all the Souqs it may be a bad time for that but if you want to experience the culture and the uniqueness of the country I would say YES, visit Morocco in Ramadan.
Ramadan Food in Morocco
Although the focus of the holy month of fasting is more religious with extra worshipping, Moroccans place a surprising emphasis on food during Ramadan. During Ramadan, Moroccans eat 2 meals a day, sometimes a third meal can take place between Ftour and Suhoor which is called dinner.
Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called “suhoor”, and they break their fast with a second meal referred to as “Ftour” at sunset before the evening prayer “Salat Maghrib”. “Ftour” is highly anticipated, and everyone is looking forward to the food spread, even children who do not fast yet (due to their young age).
“Suhoor or Sehri” is the pre-dawn meal and the last meal Muslims consume before fasting the whole day. The meal is eaten before “Salat Fajr” the early morning/first prayer, around 4 am. It is usually a small meal that contains important ingredients that release energy throughout the day and help Muslims avoid weakness during their fast.
Suhoor is highly recommended to Muslims by the prophet Muhammed and advised to be taken as a blessing to the benefit it has on the body and soul during this month. Thus, Suhoor is very important for Muslims fasting during the month of Ramadan.
The Moroccan Suhoor meal can include freshly-made Moroccan pancakes known as Msemen, sweets to provide the sugar surge needed for a long day without food, bread “Khobz”, yogurt, and leftover food from the previous Ftour such as Harira, and lots of liquids. Many people stay up all night until Suhoor time. Therefore most restaurants stay open and serve a Suhoor menu as well.
The pre-dawn warning is one of the most important experiences of Ramadan in Morocco. The predawn call’s purpose is to awaken people for Suhour time before the fasting day begins.
There are different ways to call for Suhoor time, either using a firing a cannon or sounding a horn by the Naffar called Zawake (Neffar is the guy whose duty is to awaken people for Suhoor). Another warning, accompanied by the call to prayer (Adhan) can take place to alert those fasting that Fajr time is approaching thus, no more food or drink may be taken until sunset.
For the Ftour’ meal, women start their preparations early in the day due to the variety of meals they have to serve. The Ramadan Ftour in Morocco includes savory-filled pastries and sweets such as Sellou and Chebakia.
Chebbakia is traditionally a Ramadan specialty and must be prepared in advance for use throughout the month. The famous lentil and tomato soup Harira is also served during Ramadan Iftar with hard-boiled eggs and dates.
The Moroccan Ramadan table should include fried or oven-cooked fish, various Moroccan pancakes such as Msemen and Beghrir, dates, milk, juices, and of course the Moroccan Mint tea.
At sunset, the Iftar Zawaka announces that it is time to break the fast. Many people rush to their houses and the smart ones already have water or food in their hands waiting for the call or Athan (prayer call).
During the Ftour time, you will likely discover that the streets of even the largest Moroccan cities are completely deserted as all people are gone home to eat. This doesn’t mean that everyone eats at home. There are many restaurants across the country serving Ramadan Ftour and Suhoor meals. The restaurants can get quite busy and the food is damn delicious also.
Prayer “Taraweeh” and Quran during Ramadan in Morocco
After breakfast feast (Iftar) people get ready for Ramadan night prayer (Taraweeh), held in mosques. Mosques get quite full to the point of closing some streets nearby to accommodate more people.
The nightly prayer is about an hour long where Quran recitation is performed. And most of the time mosques use loudspeakers so that the worshippers can hear and follow the reading, so expect to hear the prayers in the neighborhood.
Non-Muslims generally don’t attend these prayers but I think they would be welcome provided they adhere to the dress code and refrain from talking. The amazing experience of witnessing hundreds of Muslims praying in such peace and harmony is just touching.
Restaurants and Cafes during Ramadan in Morocco
Having the Ramdan Ftour in a restaurant is very popular in Morocco. Restaurants and cafes compete to provide the best Ramadan menu. Harira soup, dates, Msemen (Moroccan Pancakes), Chebakia, boiled eggs, juice, and tea are compulsory in the Ramadan menu.
Laylat al-Qadr (The night of Decree) in Morocco
Laylat al Qadr or the Night of Decree is an awaited night for all Muslims during Ramadan. Laylat Al Qadr is the night on which the Holy Quran was revealed to Muhammed the prophet by Allah through the angel Gabriel.
It is believed to have taken place on one of the final 10 nights of Ramadan. Morocco is a Sunni majority country, thus Laylat Al Qadr is commemorated on the 27th of Ramadan.
This night is very important for all Muslims around the globe. It is mentioned in the Quran that this night is better than 1000 months of worship and that’s why Muslims pray more during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan, and on the 27th day they spend the whole night from Ishaa to Fajr praying and reading the Quran in the mosque.
Eid Al Fitr Traditions in Morocco
Ramadan’s end is marked with Eid Al Fitr in which Muslims celebrate the end of a successful month of fasting, abstinence, and extra worshipping. Since food is a central feature in the Moroccan culture, women prepare all kinds of sweets and pastries for the Eid Al Fitr celebration a few days earlier but it’s common also for many families to outsource these mouth-watering sweets from their local bakeries.
The day starts early as men dress up in their fancy white Jellabas and head to their nearest mosque where Eid prayer is held. It is usually at 7 in the morning.
Women on the other side get busy preparing the breakfast table and filling it with all the delicious sweets and pastries made for Eid. After the morning breakfast, the children dress up as well in their new clothes and head outside with pockets full of money to buy whatever they want.
Eid Al Fitr is not only a celebration when families and friends get together, drink tea and share precious moments of joy but also a religious one. It is compulsory for Muslims to pay Zakat Al Fitr 48 hours before Salat Eid (Eid prayer) which is a charity paid to the poor to help them afford food for the Eid day. The amount is determined every year by the government and it’s around 13 to 15 Dh per person.
Must have Ramadan experiences in Morocco
If you happen to be in Morocco in Ramadan, I would say take advantage of this unique experience and do not miss trying the following experiences:
- Experience a Ramadan Iftar. If you cannot snag an invitation to a Moroccan house there are plenty of restaurants offering a Ramadan menu.
- Wake up and try a Moroccan Ramadan Suhoor. If you are staying in a traditional neighborhood I’m sure the Neffar will wake you up.
- Experience the Ramadan nightlife. The vibes after Iftar time are amazing. Most people stay up all night, especially in big cities such as Marrakech and Casablanca.
- Visit the souqs and traditional markets. It won’t be as busy as expected but don’t miss out on the experience.
- Try to connect with the locals to learn more about Ramadan and maybe get invited to a Ftour.
Even though fasting all day without food or drink and doing extra prayers seem difficult to outsiders, for Muslims Ramadan is the best month of the year. There is just something special about everything in Ramadan, and Morocco is no exception.
This strange and amazing vibe can never be experienced at any other time of the year. Therefore, if you crave a different experience, visit Morocco during Ramadan. If you have Moroccan friends, get them to host you. If not, perhaps you can network with people and get the true essence of Ramadan. I even recommend trying a fast. The food and drink really taste good at the end of the day.