Travelling during the fasting month is a little bit trickier for muslims and non-muslims alike. Tricky but not impossible. Since ramadhan starts at the end of may, here are some tips on how to survive fasting while travelling and also some useful information for non- muslim travellers that are visiting muslim countries.
Before we start, here is a little background on what Ramadhan is all about. Ramadhan falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking or engaging in sexual acts from dusk till dawn. Suhur is the pre-dawn meal taken before starting their fast. It usually starts a couple of hours before the dawn breaks. Iftar is the act of breaking fast when the sun sets where feasts are usually spread out after a long day without food.
Tips for Muslim Travellers
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
If you are travelling long distances, across countries or continents where time zones change and the journey is arduous, then you are excused from fasting. But you have to make up for those days another time. This was stated in chapter two of the Quran. However, if you are travelling a short distance like a two- hour drive or a 40-minute flight, best to just continue fasting.
KNOW YOUR TIMING
The timing for sunrise and sunset varies between countries. Even the duration from sunrise to sunset is different. For example in Malaysia, sunrise is roughly at 6am and sunset varies anywhere after 7pm that makes the fasting duration around 13 hours. But in cities like London, the fasting period is as long as
18 hours. So before you begin travelling long distances, find out the timings of suhur and iftar in your intended destination so you can be well prepared.
STARTING YOUR JOURNEY CLOSER TO SUNSET
A tip to make the most of your fasting day is to travel closer to the time of iftar. Taking off a couple of hours before the sunset allows you to conserve energy and better track your time to break fast. I mean if you take a flight just before sunset, you have an accurate time to break fast before entering different time zones. Plus being indicated that it’s time to eat by watching the sun set through your cockpit window is a view I would like experience.
PACK SOME SNACKS
Being stuck in a car when it is close to iftar is not impossible. Do pack some light food like a bottle of water and the ever popular Ramadhan snack, dates to break fast with if you find yourself stranded during your travels.
VISIT ANOTHER MUSLIM COUNTRY
If you want to travel during the fasting month, why not go to another Muslim country? It would be an adventure to experience Ramadhan in countries where the culture is different. Feast on the local cuisine and try out the various night activities like shopping in the big malls of UAE for lucrative promotions or experiencing the bustling night markets of Marrakesh and Egypt.
Tips for Non-Muslim Travellers
For travellers who do not fast, travelling to Muslim countries during Ramadhan has its drawbacks especially when it comes to finding eateries that are open during the day. Plus there are stricter countries outside Malaysia where non-Muslims are refrained from eating and drinking in public. However, you can still have a lot of fun and enjoy the country with these helpful tips below.
KNOW THE MUSLIM COUNTRY YOU ARE VISITING
Because Malaysia is a multiracial country, finding eateries that are open during daytime is not hard. But countries like Jordan, Egypt and the UAE are stricter that lead to many eateries being closed down. Egypt even halts the selling of alcohol during Ramadhan. So it is better to do some research on the Muslim country you are visiting to find out about their laws and Ramadhan culture.
EATING IN PUBLIC
In any Muslim country, it is polite to not eat, drink or smoke in front of people who are fasting. Try eating your French fries inside the fast food joint instead of walking around snacking on it. A little discretion would not hurt. Many big hotels in the Middle East even create special sections for eating that are away from public view for non-Muslims to have their daily meals.
HAVING DINNER DURING IFTAR
Do not be surprised to see many people flock restaurants and hotel eateries during Iftar. Join in the celebration as these places especially the hotel restaurants serve up a feast for dinner. You can taste the myriad of local cuisine, usually in buffet style till your appetite is satiated. If you want to avoid the crowd or long lines, try having dinner before or after iftar. Plus it is polite to let the people who are fasting eat first since they have been abstaining from food since dawn.
Fasting Durations Around The World
- Reykjavik, Iceland – 21 Hours
- Stockholm, Sweden – 19 Hours
- London, England – 18 Hours
- Los Angeles, California – 15 Hours
- Cairo, Egypt – 15 Hours
- Kuala Lumpur – 12 Hours