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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There is more to Ramadan than just fasting.

For most people when you mention Ramadan the association is with fasting from dawn until sunset. There is however far more to this blessed month and so we asked our guide Kokko Ibbe to explain.

Tell us more about Ramadan

Ramadan is always the ninth month of the Islamic calendar but will fall differently in the Gregorian calendar as the Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon. In order for Ramadan to start the first sliver of a new crescent moon has to be sighted and therefore it is common for people not to know if they will be fasting the following day until a few hours before! This yearly recognition is viewed as one of the Five Pillars of Islam which forms the foundation of the Islamic faith. Fasting is obligatory for an adult Muslim with the exception of individuals who are experiencing illness, travelling, are elderly people, pregnant or breastfeeding. Those who are unable to fast due to a certain condition still make up the days they have missed at a later date. Whilst fasting Muslims avoid eating, drinking, smoking and having sexual relations. Cafés and restaurants will be closed throughout this period of time, but will be open late in to the night. Our day is almost turned upside down!

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Some of you may think how can we not eat and drink for almost 13 hours for a whole month and how do you do it? Well, children start practicing at the age of 7 or 10. It is not a must but the parents should encourage them to do so in order that they can get used to it. Ramadan is not all about fasting though. Ramadan teaches discipline, self-control, showing sympathy to those who are less fortunate than ourselves and offering charity. Caring for your neighbors and friends, putting back the smile on their face. One of the main things most people will surely learn will be forgiveness.

What is Maahefun?

In the week running up to the start of Ramadan, The Maldives has a tradition known as Maahefun. This celebration marks the beginning of Ramadan where traditionally all islanders would gather to have their final meal before fasting. Everyone brings food and juices to share. Family members and friends usually celebrate this festival on the beach or an uninhabited island.

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How do you prepare for Ramadan?

Well in the Maldives people take things a bit different than in other countries. One thing which is really traditional will be the painting of the home.  In the capital and also in local islands you will find homes painted in an array of different colours. Most people will paint the exterior of their home every 2 years and and internally most probably annually. They get rid of their old kitchen appliances and buy new and it is common for furniture to be replaced. They buy supplies for the whole month of Ramadan which most shops will have on sale or promotion. In some islands the women will gather  in one place and prepare all the spices and snacks that they need for the whole month. All of it will be equally distributed amongst all who have helped to make.

The start of Ramadan

The first day of Ramadan will be a public holiday in the Maldives. Ramadan itself is really quiet and during the early morning you will find very few people on the road or out and about. Even working hours are reduced and government and public service offices will only be open for four hours daily. People start to go about their daily buisness and become active during the afternoon prayer time. Mosque’s are very often full and in local islands it is common to find people praying outside the mosque during these days.

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The local market and fish market will be one of the busiest places in the afternoon. Locally grown vegetables, fruits and fresh fish will sell at a fast speed.  Thoddoo island in North Ari Atoll is an agriculture island and is famous for its production of watermelon during Ramadan. Most homes will serve a juice when breaking fast and this is common to be watermelon to aid rehydration. Women will start cooking in the early afternoon preparing a wide range of food for Iftar (breakfast) and then a later evening meal known as Tharaavees. Men with their children and friends will ride around on their motor bikes for some fresh air and to waste some time! Elderly people may play chess games quite often with a crowd of onlookers waiting for the checkmate moment!

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All family members will gather near the food table waiting for sunset prayer to call. These last few minutes can be the longest of the day! In some countries Muslims will have to fast for almost 21 hours but in the Maldives it’s never more than 13 hours. The end of fasting begins with 3 dates and a glass of water, which is considered how it was done by the prophet. After a small meal people head off to mosque. After the prayers people meet with their friends for coffee and will often bring them home to eat the leftover food from the breakfast.

The occasion of Eid al-Fitr marks the finish of Ramadan and the start of the following lunar month, Shawwal. This first day of the next month is proclaimed after another crescent new moon has been located or the fruition of 30 days of fasting.

Whether you travel with Secret Paradise during Ramadan or at another time of the year, you can be sure to learn more about Maldives culture and traditions and have a holiday that is filled with unique local experiences.

Visiting the Maldives during Ramadan

Ramadan falls in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar which in 2019 begins on the 5th May. Muslims all over the world abstain from food, drink, smoking and other physical needs during daylight hours. It is not just a time to purify the soul and refocus attention on God. It is a time of reflection and consideration to give thanks for what you have in your life. It is also an important time to think of others and perform good deeds. This observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

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Guests visiting Maldives’ resorts during the holy month are unlikely to be ‘inconvenienced’ by Ramadan, however, for those visiting local islands the following will assist you to make the most of your holiday and plan accordingly.

  • Local cafes and restaurants are closed during daylight hours until sunset at approx. 18:15.
  • Guesthouses and hotels that have in house restaurants however, offer food and beverages to both in house and non resident guests. In Male , Seahouse, Hotel Jen and at the airport Hulhule Airport Hotel all serve non residents.
  • Public bus and ferry services do not operate between 17:30 and 19:00. Some ferry timetables may change to take this into account.
  • Public service companies such as banks and the post office open only between 10:00-14:00.
  • Shops close at 18:00 for Iftar and evening prayer and re-open between 20:00 and 20:30.

It is also possible that the first day of Ramadan is given a public holiday, so make sure you check the ferry and public speedboat timetable as services may be altered if you are planning to travel on this day.

Whilst there are no rules and regulations for non-Muslims in the Maldives during Ramadan, it is courteous and respectful to refrain from consuming food and drink and smoking in public during the fasting hours of the Holy Month of Ramadan.

In general it a period of time when life on local islands during the day is quieter and the pace of life a lot slower, but isn’t that what holidays are about?

Whilst some may find visiting the Maldives a challenge during this time for others it provides the perfect opportunity to gain a unique insight into the country’s faith and culture.

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