What’s It Like to Travel to Maldives During Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan many guests who contact us are unsure as to whether it is a good time to travel to the Maldives. Will local island shops be open? Will there still be tours and trips or will the services be reduced during this time? Will they be able to eat and drink during the day? So let us put the record straight!

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month on the Islamic calendar which is celebrated by Muslims Worldwide by fasting for a month. Ramadan commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. Fasting is from dawn until sunset during which Muslims refrain from drinking, eating, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations.

Ramadan and fasting is the fourth pillar of the Islamic faith and therefore forms a very large part of our guiding team’s way of life. We asked our team to share the benefit of fasting and what it meant to them.

‘The whole thing about fasting is being faithful to your soul, it teaches you about sincere love as when Muslims observe fasting they do it out of a deep love for their god. Its a period of time where I feel closer to Allah and my soul feels lighter. It teaches patience and self control’

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What restrictions will I experience as a tourist?

During the month of Ramadan there will be some changes to opening hours of local island businesses. Certainly you will not find local cafes or restaurants open during day light hours and possibly the timings of local ferry and speedboat transfer services will change. However travelling with one of our tour guides means as a tourist you will not be inconvenienced. Your tour guide will give you all the information you need throughout your trip and they will be able to adapt plans accordingly. If not travelling with a Secret Paradise guide your guesthouse or hotel should be able to provide this information.

Although there are no restrictions for non Muslim’s during Ramadan, it is respectful to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public areas during  daylight hours.

What to expect during this time?

Government offices and public services shorten their working day to four hours and many local island people will also reduce their working hours in order to preserve energy. If travelling with a guide during this period they will be fasting but they do not expect special treatment as they say that after a few days they get used to fasting and that they don’t feel weak or light headed. I have known some guests to fast for a day or two themselves in order to share the experience and reflect on different cultures and religions, but there is certainly no expectation for guests to fast.

Locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful during the season of Ramadan. Local markets and shops will over flow with fresh salad leaves, papayas, bananas and watermelons. Men and women will be seen shopping throughout the afternoon and sometimes right up until sunset, seeking out a last minute forgotten purchase.

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Once the sun has set and the call to prayer rings through the air, families will join together with a feast of local food called iftar.  The fast will traditionally be broken with 3 dates and a glass of watermelon juice. There will be varieties of hedhikaa – short eats.  fathu mashuni – asian cabbage leaf, tuna and coconut that is mixed with rihakuru bondi – tuna paste fish balls, roshi – flat bread, rice and quite often two different curries made from tuna or vegetables.  There is also kulhi mas – chili fish that will play a big role on the table and certainly creates a centre piece. Fresh juices to assist in re hydration include fresh coconut water, mango and pineapple. Faloodha is popular with many families  made from rose syrup, condensed milk, water and basil seeds.

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You will also often find that local cafes and restaurants will offer Iftar buffet dinners with a wide variety of cuisines and flavours. Bookings will be taken in advance and it is not then until Iftar has finished that cafes will re-open for general use. It is far more common nowadays for families, friends and work colleagues to opt to go out and break their fast at one of these restaurants at least once or twice during Ramadan. I am sure these evenings away from home come as a welcome relief to those ladies in the family who would normally be found in the kitchen preparing Iftar at home from midday during the Ramadan period.

Following Tarawih Prayer, which falls two hours after the sunset prayer, families and friends gather again for Tarawih Buin where they share short eats and drinks which may include traditional drinks such as Sooji ( Semolina and tropical almonds) and desserts like Pirini (a yummy rice pudding).
A supper called Haaru or Suhoor is taken traditionally just before the dawn prayer and usually consists of  curry with roshi or rice which is completed with a porridge call “baihpen” and plenty of water.

As with all Islamic countries Muslim’s pray 5 times a day. Prayer is increased during Ramadan as the holy month is a time of reflection and to study the Quran. Special prayers at the local mosque take place for all ages after Isha (evening prayer) called Tarawih and is a longer prayer ending at 21:00.

Guests often ask our tour guides what they do when working as they often can’t get to the mosque to pray. Kamey advises that ‘during the day we have time periods between the prayers that we can use to complete the prayer when we reach the destination. If we are traveling for a longer journey we can combine midday prayer and afternoon prayer and we can also combine the evening prayer and night prayer.’

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As an expat in the Maldives, whilst I am not a Muslim I do choose to fast, although I have to admit I do often lapse to drinking water. This decision to fast was made partly out of respect because my life is filled with local family, friends and obviously the team and secondly, because it is a time of self discipline, self control and reflection and regardless of religion these are worthwhile actions to take even if just once a year, perhaps not dissimilar to giving something up for Lent in the Christian faith. I am privileged that I always join with my local island friend’s and their families to break fast and if they are lucky I will assist in the meal preparation!

If you want to experience local homemade Maldivian food, we offer a ‘Come Dine With Me’ evening visit to a local family home where you can sample authentic food enjoyed by local island families.

As Ramadan draws to an end preparation starts for the celebrations called Eid Al Fitr. This is a time of celebration, social gatherings, plenty of food and drink as well as traditional dance and music. It is a wonderful time as a local island tourist to be in the Maldives as many guest house owners will invite you to join them in the celebrations.

There really is nothing like visiting the local islands in the Maldives, and even more so when you can experience local traditions like Ramadan and Eid. It is a privilege to be a part of it all and will provide wonderful memories of your Maldivian dream holiday.

For more information about travelling with one of our local island tour guides << Contact Us Here >> ………. and #letusguideyou

 

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Why Travel in Low Season to the Maldives?

Many people ask  “when is the best time of year to visit the Maldives” and our immediate response is any time! Typically May to September is regarded as low season but this does not mean the Maldives should not be visited during this period, in fact there are some great reasons to visit at this time of year and our team have put together a few of them for you.

Regardless of when you visit you are sure to fall in love with our island paradise

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Weather

The Maldives consistently has two seasons – dry season and wet season. Dry season lasts from December to April and has little rain with a lower humidity. Wet season lasts from May to November and can be prone to heavy rain and high winds with the water temperature a couple of degrees lower. However this doesn’t mean that low season in the Maldives is a complete wash out. The Maldives usually has at least 6-8 hours of clear skies and sun most days and whilst there may be some heavy showers which on occasion may last more than a day, generally tropical storms come and go very quickly and provide an amazing visual spectacle!

As with many places in the world it is getting harder to predict weather patterns based on historical data, however, you would be very unlucky to visit and not experience some sunshine during a week long stay, in fact many of our guests have been delighted to discover that the sun can shine every day of the week even in what is known as the wet season!

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Surf

Finding the perfect wave is every surfer’s main life goal!  The Maldives boasts over 20 surf breaks and the water is a tropical 28-degree Celsius meaning there is no need for a wet suit! There are four distinct surf regions in the Maldives with North Male atoll providing the most consistent breaks. Travel to the South, Central and Southern atolls to find uncrowded line-ups and perfect almond shaped barrels. The ideal waves occur in  North Male Atoll usually from April to October with the biggest swells experienced between June and September. The Maldives offers waves for all levels of expertise, combine this with less tourists visiting at this time of year means you can enjoy the ultimate waves with like minded individuals, followed by the best relaxation and a great social vibe on local islands.

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Diving

Diving during low season provides a very affordable dive holiday option for both the experienced diver and for those looking to learn to dive. As the number of tourists visiting is lower, there tends to be less boat traffic above water resulting in the underwater world getting much busier! It is said that hammerhead sharks and reef sharks are more visible during low season as the water temperature is a couple of degrees cooler and they swim at shallower depths.  Low season also brings plankton to areas such as Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll and in turn mantas and whale sharks come to feast!

Ruth’s diving tip is: “Diving is good all year-round, although a basic rule is that reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side of any atoll from December to April.”

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Cheaper Rates 

Like all holiday destinations, travel in low season means cheaper accommodation rates and less tourists travelling. The beauty with the Maldives is there is never a ‘winter’ as such so as long as you are happy with an odd day of rain here and there you can travel all year round. If you are travelling from Europe where July, August and September are busy travel months and usually more expensive, you can create a great holiday at a fraction of the cost of visiting a destination closer to your home and benefit from the year round tropical climate! Plus because there are less tourists, you get more of the islands to yourself.

Take advantage of special offers and last minute discounts that are often offered by resorts and local island properties during low season and with an increasing number of low budget airlines flying to Male International Airport flight ticket rates have never been more competative!

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Maldivian Celebrations

One thing the Maldivians are great at and that is celebrating. There are some wonderful celebrations during  low season and if you book a trip which includes experiencing local culture, you may be lucky enough to join in the festivities.

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Independence Day Celebrations July

Independence Day is a very important celebration for the Maldivians; they celebrate gaining full independence from Britain in 1965 after being under their ruling since 1887. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate on the local islands with the communities coming together with parades, music, dance, festivities and plenty of delicious local food.

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Eid Celebrations

Eid is one of the most important celebration for Muslims worldwide and as a tourist it is a real privilege to visit the local islands during this time and join in the festivities.

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Eid ul Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting all Muslims commit to as a mark of respect for their faith. During the month of Ramadan local island residents will not eat or drink from sun rise to sun set, but this rarely affects tourists as locals have experienced this discipline for many years and are very much used to working during this time. Local cafes and restaurants will be closed but your tour guide or travel advisor will advise you on what is available during this time.  Eid ul Fitr marks the last day of Ramadan where local island families will visit the Mosque for special prayers followed by a feast at their homes with their families.

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Eid al Adha celebrates the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. This five day festivity marks the end of a spiritual journey all Muslims are urged to experience by visiting Mecca at some point in their lives. Many people return to their home islands to celebrate this occasion with big family reunions and a five day festivity of local music, dance, and celebrations and as always plenty of delicious local foods to try.

If you would like more information about visiting the Maldives during low season feel free to contact us and we can advise you on the best tour package to suit your travel requirements.

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