Top places to visit in Ramadan
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is a tourist hotspot all year round, but during the month of Ramadhan, Dubai is even more enchanting. In addition to the tourist amenities that Dubai offers on a regular basis, visitors during Ramadhan can participate in events organized by the local government, aimed at educating and reminding the public of the meaning and importance of the Holy time. Iftar is announced in Dubai by the sounding of cannons. Hotels often construct Ramadhan Majlis (Arabic tents) decorated with ornate cushions and Persian carpets in which to celebrate the Iftar meal every evening. The meal includes a variety of cuisines reflecting Arabic culture. These meals are typically held after the sundown prayers have taken place, when the celebration really begins. Dubai possibly offers more services for non-fasters than other destinations.
Special Food to try:
Harees – local delicacy of shredded lamb and boiled wheat that is crushed together in a wooden press.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
The ancient city of Istanbul was the capital of Islamic culture during the Ottoman Empire and stays true to its roots through its festive celebrations of Ramadhan. The local governments subsidise the construction of Iftar tents in which fasters and non-fasters can come together to celebrate and at night the city’s public spaces become filled with spiritual celebration; public readings of the Qu’ran occur and markets open with stalls and vendors selling traditional snacks and religious books and ornaments. Street performances of shadow puppets and traditional folk dances commence. Furthermore, Ramadhan is an ideal time to visit Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque to learn about and experience the Muslim faith.
Special Foods to try (There are so many specialities to be had in Istanbul – here are some favourites)
Durum – Turkish doner kebab but not as you know it!
Fırın Sütlaç – baked rice pudding
3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ramadhan in Malaysia is particularly known for its special food markets and bazaars that sell a wide variety of traditional snacks, delicacies and desserts, many of them unique to Malaysia as a result of the nation’s cultural diversity. Locals frequent the markets, making them a great place for tourists and non-fasters to interact and celebrate with the locals and fasters. It is not uncommon for tourists to be invited to celebrate with locals and their families. Celebrations also include special performances of traditional dances. The Mosques in Kuala Lumpur depict the mix between the traditional design with more modern architecture.
Special Foods to try:
Bubur Lambuk – Creamy rice porridge with pieces of meat, sweet potatoes, spices and coconut milk. It is typically prepared in large batches and served free to the public at sunset.
Nasi dagang – really tasty! Consis of rice steamed in coconut milk, fish curry and extra ingredients such as fried shaved coconut, solok lada, hard-boiled eggs and vegetable pickles.
4. Fes, Morocco
The Old Medina in Fes is another hub of Muslim culture. Walking around the medieval walled city, visitors can embrace the history and culture while experiencing the bustling modern life of the city. It is also the site of the world’s oldest university, al-Qarawiyyin, and numerous Mosques that serve as gateways into the rich Muslim culture. The breaking of the fast is a great opportunity to mix with the local people and try the traditional Moroccan Iftar meal, as it differs slightly from place to place. There are family filled funfairs in the public squares and music and light shows are not uncommon. As in Dubai, a cannon will be fired to signal the beginning and end of the fast.
Special Foods to try:
Sellou – an unbaked sweet made with toasted sesame seeds, almonds and flour and browned in the oven
Chebakia – a sesame cookie which is fried and coated in honey. These are prepared in large quantities in advance.
B’ssara and Harrira – Broad bean soup and the latter has shredded meat and chickpeas.
Tagine with couscous – In many different varieties, from lamb and prunes to chicken with sultanas and cranberries.
5. Cairo, Egypt
The city of Cairo was where many ancient civilisations met, resulting in a mixed cultural heritage. However, during the holy month of Ramadhan, Egyptians are seen to embrace the Islamic roots of the city and visitors will see festive Ramadhan lanterns decorating the homes, restaurants and streets of Cairo. The lanterns are lit at sunset, signaling the end of the fast and turned off when the sun rises in preparation for the day of fasting. After the Iftar meal, people flood the city’s streets and markets, making them especially lively. Cairo’s main tourist attractions all remain open during Ramadhan, although may close earlier and for Eid Al Fitr. Cairo boasts some of the world’s most beautiful examples of historic Islamic architecture and visitors to these sites will appreciate the heightened feeling of celebration.
Special Foods to try:
Mahshi – Vegetables stuffed with flavoured rice.
Atayef – Pancakes filled with nuts and served with syrup and honey.