Ramadan begins for Muslims on 20th July, requiring those celebrating this religious period (the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar) to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset.
At sunset, the family will gather the fast-breaking meal known as Iftar which, over time, has grown into lively banquets and celebrations. It’s a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities.
Here’s the best cities to visit, explore and celebrate in around the world for Muslim or non-Muslim tourists seeking a Ramadan holiday experience like no other.
Cairo, Egypt : The city that never sleeps and certainly does Ramadan with much fanfare. Whilst during the day the hustle and bustle of business and daily life comes to something of a standstill, it soon wakes up after sunset. The roads heave at break-of-fast (Iftar) time, there’s the sounds of prayers, sheesha along the streets and long Ramadan nights when the dense population out and about. Nobody does it like Cairo!
Istanbul, Turkey : Turkish Ramadan is a vibrant mix of song, dance and prayer: In Istanbul, they call the nights ‘red and white’ because of their curious mix of fun and prayer. All the mosques are lit up for the whole holy month and tourists can enjoy the whirling dervishes, special prayers en masse, and famous sweets. Ramadan in Istanbul is quite a Turkish delight.
Amman, Jordan : An anticipated hotspot this year due to its moderate climate and politics, they are expecting more visitors than ever. Jordan is a treat at any time with its incredible heritage and history backed by night time Ramadan celebrations. Well worth a visit.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia : The holiest city in Islam is also the spiritual heart of Ramadan. Watch visitors go to Omrah (or mini Hajj pilgrimage) and pass special vigils at the mosques.
Dubai, UAE : A little something for everyone – commercial shoppers, business visitors and the more devoted acolytes. There’s even Qaran-memorizing contests for those that way inclined. Expatriates or non-Muslims can take Ramadan etiquette crash courses to get with the program.
Beirut, Lebanon : The Beirutis are famous for throwing a great party and neither wars nor fasting seem to ebb the flow of entertainment. Post-fast parties are something to see and attacked with great gusto – shows, performances and Iftar food offerings to die for.
Fez, Morocco : Travelers love the Medieval Moroccan city any time of year, but Ramadan is special – from fun-fair to library Islamic learning, sweet mint tea evenings and the rude/charming awakening of the traditional Musaharati who goes door to door drumming awake the neighbourhood to get up and eat. The Moroccan iftar is a sumptuous affair with an abundance of dates, milk, juices, and sweets in the menu and “Harira”, a lentil and tomato soup that reinvigorates the system.
Medina, Saudi Arabia : The memorable Medina is second only to fasting in Mecca. People speak of spiritual Ramadans and remarkable Iftar experiences in this holiest of cities.