Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and celebrates the time when the Koran was revealed to Mohammed. This month – which can last 29 to 31 days – must be glorified with sacrifices, like fasting. The people must not eat anything at all, during the day. They can only taste something after the sunset, just to have the strength to get up the next day.
Islamic nations take Ramadan seriously because it prepares them to the great holiday of Eid Al-Fitr. Usually, restaurants and cafés are closed during the whole month, but sometimes capital cities and tourist places make exceptions for foreigners. You will never see local people go eating and having fun, but tourists could. Not all Islamic nations allow these exceptions, though. Zanzibar, for example.
What to do in Zanzibar on Ramadan days
Since Ramadan month prevents people from doing many things, Zanzibar will not be too crowded. Which is good for a tourist who wants to enjoy the territory and monuments. You can still go to the beach and go swimming. You are allowed to walk in your bathing suit, though it better is not too succinct! Tourists can have lunch and cocktails on the beach resorts because they are allowed to serve foreigners, if they ask for it.
It is possible to go on boat tours, they are allowed. Fishermen and tour operators do not stop their job during this particular month, and … you will have more room on the boats! Tourists can go touring in the cities and villages, but must remember that some monuments and museums may be closed due to the particular time. It is possible to go walking in the nature, but not all trekking guides are available for long walks – because of fasting. So be patient and kind, if they will say “no”. You might postpone your trip or go visit closer places. Same problem for fishing trips or scuba diving.
Tourist behaviour during Ramadan in Zanzibar
You are not forced to respect the Islamic tradition of fasting, so you can buy food on your own and eat it when – and where – you like. But be nice to those who cannot eat, so please do not enjoy your meal on a public road, in a square, or near a mosque. You can have your lunch in your hotel room, or in a secluded corner of the beach.
Modest dressing is recommended, in order to not offend the devotees who are praying and fasting. Not only women, also male tourists shall respect the need of being more serious. Long trousers, long sleeves, long skirts are suggested instead of shorts. Always take a scarf with you. If you are on the beach you can show your bathing suit but make sure you always have something to wear on – a shirt, a veil – if requested.
Pay attention of the gestures. You can hold hands, shake hands, hug your wife or friend. But you better won’t kiss each other, or run, or speak loudly or laugh out loud. Ramadan is a time of penance and sacrifice, you are not forced to do it but you shall respect those who will. It is also recommended not to smoke, not to listen to loud music or to sing. If your vacation will end after the Ramadan, you might enjoy to take part to the final celebration of Eid Al-Fitr. Then you will taste all the best food in Zanzibar and enjoy the happiness of the people all around!