If you happen to be lucky enough to be traveling to the Middle East anytime soon, then there are a few things to note, as from the 27th of May, for a month, most Muslims in the Middle East will be observing the holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and forms one of the obligatory Five Pillars of Islam. It is a month where the act of fasting is carried out, which means Muslims will refrain from eating and drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset – commonly known as suhoor and iftar. Not only is abstinence from food and drink practiced; refraining from any bad or evil acts, swearing, smoking, backbiting and any impure thoughts are also obliterated. This enables a full detox of the mind, body and soul. The month is also known for being selfless; giving to charity and helping others. If you happen to be headed to the Middle East during the month of Ramadan, here are some tips on navigating the local traditions and customs.
What to Wear…
Due to religious observance and the overall cultural ethics of the Middle East; it is important to abstain from wearing anything too revealing during Ramadan. For example, shorts for women are a no-go. Opt or something loose and ‘flow-y’ and if you are wearing short sleeves throw a pashmina over out of respect, or even consider loosely covering your head. Modesty is key here.
Note: You will most definitely need to put a headscarf on before entering any Mosque.
Tips on the Language…
When traveling to a foreign country it is always handy to know a few phrases to help you get by. The native language in the Middle East is Arabic, below are a few essential phrases for your trip:
Hello – “As Salaam un Alaikum” or “Marhaba”
Goodbye – “Khuda Hafiz”
Thank you – “La Shukraan”
Please – “Min Fadhlak”
Stop – “Tawaqf”
You’re welcome – “Al Afw”
God willing – “Insha’Allah”
Beautiful – “Masha’Allah” (This phrase is often used when complimenting something or someone)
How are you? – “Khaiyfa Halak”
I’m good, thank you – “Ana Bekhair, Shukran”
How much? – “Kamm et Taqleefah”
My name is – “Ismee”
Help – “Mosaaada”
Bathroom – “Hammam”
Where is – “Ayna”
I’m not sure – “La Aaref”
Have a lovely day – “Atmna ik Yawma Tyba”
Tips on Eating & Drinking…
If you are traveling during the month of Ramadan it is important to be considerate of those fasting around you. Out of respect, it is considered to refrain from eating and drinking in public between sunrise and sunset and join the locals for their suhoor and iftar meals – you will be guaranteed a banquet feast fit for a king! The local Ramadan timetable will educate you on the times of suhoor and iftar. Feel free to ask your hotel concierge or tour guide for one when you reach your destination.
How to Celebrate…
The month of Ramadan in the Middle East is concluded with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. This occasion signifies and celebrates the completion of the holy month of Ramadan. The day is commenced with the offering of congregational prayers at the local Mosque and giving to those in need.
Families and friends then rejoice over a huge feast filled with local delicacies and delights, with ongoing entertainment and the offering of gifts. Many local opt to wear new clothing such as ornate robes and gowns. Many groups and families celebrate at the end of the evening with mini mugs of mint tea or Arabic coffee and the shisha pipe. On this day, it is good to greet everyone with “Eid Mubarak” which means to ”wish you a blessed Eid.”
Have you traveled to the Middle East before? What tips do you have for other travelers? Share in the comments section below!
*Disclaimer: This post was contributed to The Pin the Map Project.