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Preparing for Travel to the Middle East during Ramadan

Preparing for Travel to the Middle East during Ramadan

 

If you are travelling to the Middle-East during Ramadan, you will notice many different daily routines and traditions adopted by Muslims in those countries. Charity, fasting and prayer all take an important role during this holy time, but there are many more cultural traditions practised by Muslims during Ramadan and many have their own unique way of celebrating.

Ramadan dates can vary from year to year, so it is important to check before travelling. It is seen as the most sacred month of the year and it is believed that during this month, God revealed the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s sacred text, to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), on a night known as “The Night of Power”.

Fasting

During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast every day from dawn to sunset. This means that travelling to the Middle-East during this time may mean you won’t get to experience the street food and markets usually set out.

The practice of fasting serves social and spiritual purposes; to remind Muslims of human frailty and dependence on God for sustenance and to show what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty to encourage compassion and the duty to help the poor. It also helps them to reduce the distractions in life so they can more clearly focus on their relationship with God.

In some Muslim countries, it is a crime to eat and drink in public during the day in the month Ramadan, even if you are not Muslim, so bear this in mind and check on the countries legal requirements.

You may also see people standing on the roadside just before sunset, giving dates and other dried fruits to drivers on their way home who may not make it in time for breaking the fast.

Eid Al Fitr

At the end of Ramadan, there is a three-day celebration which also has a public holiday, dates depend on the sighting of the moon and the length varies from country to country in the Middle-East. During this period, it is traditional to greet other people with “Eid Mubarak” which means “Blessed Eid”.

If you are in the Middle-East during Eid Al Fitr, expect many celebrations, festivals and feasts.  Traditionally, people will start with prayers, then visit relatives. Females will dress beautifully and apply henna on their hands and men will dress in new white outfits.

You will see fairs, special holiday shops, firework displays and many people dancing, singing and celebrating. If you want to you can indulge in the culture and join in the celebrations. It’s a great time of year to be in the Middle-East.

Zakat

Zakat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and the principle is that people should contribute to poor and deprived individuals. It is obligatory to pay 2.5% of the wealth of any mature Muslim that they have made after a full lunar year.

Many Muslims will prefer to contribute their payment of Zakat during Ramadan. They also contribute to helping the poor by donating extra money to charity, sponsoring an orphan or contributing to development projects.

You may see families, friends and companies preparing Ramadan bags which are packages of staple foods that they distribute to the less fortunate.

Night prayers

Mosques all over the Middle-East will be full with faithful Muslims throughout the night, standing and prostrating in prayer as the imam recites long sections of the Qur’an.

Wherever you are in the Middle-East, there will be groups of Muslims fasting, worshipping and performing their Ramadan traditions. If you are in any of the countries, it is great to join in and take part in the activities. It is extremely enjoyable and a chance to live their culture and traditions.

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