The Best Ramadan Experiences are in these Cities

By Rachel McArthur - UAE

So many places to see, but so little time to do it all in. The end of Ramadan brings with it a three-day break for most workplaces, offering many the opportunity to escape to another city for a quick breather. But if like us, you’ve previously ended up trying to arrange a last-minute Eid getaway, only to find flight and hotel prices so eye-wateringly extortionate that you ended up ditching your plans altogether, there’s a solution – Ramadan travel.

Frankly, travelling during the holy month is massively underrated. There are so many cities worth visiting during this time of the Islamic year – if you’re fasting, then you won’t be short of places of worship, halal cuisine...etc. And if you’re not, then it offers the chance for you to immerse yourself into the festivities and see how different cultures celebrate the month.

Unlike some other religious occasions that can be quite sombre (not to mention where everything is closed), Ramadan is a happy month that sees observers embrace their spirituality and gathers families and friends together. If you’ve never experienced it in another city before, then better late than never. And best of all, you’ll find great flight and hotel deals online due to the fact it is seen an off-peak season.

These cities are worth visiting during the holy month of Ramadan. Add them to your bucket list now.

CAIRO, EGYPT

With its immense population and crazy traffic, the Egyptian capital of Cairo may seem overwhelming for some, but the trick here is to plan. Taxi app services are now widely available across the city, meaning you’ll always know where you’re going.

While Cairo is now somewhat split into ‘old’ and ‘new’ Cairo, for Ramadan, there’s nothing better than staying in the heart of Downtown (that’s the old city), near the likes of Tahrir Square and the River Nile.

Cairo comes alive during the holy month – Egyptians sure love their decorations – and you won’t be short of photo opportunities thanks to all of the colourful lanterns on display.

During the day, head to the sights – which will be less packed than usual – then in the evening, venture out into a market area such as Khan Al-Khalili to witness the city and its people truly come alive. Don’t forget to sample local cuisine, such as koshari - a carb-laden meal made of macaroni, rice, lentils, chickpeas and online - as well as atayef and konafa. 

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Considering this ancient Turkish city was the capital of Islamic culture during the Ottoman Empire, it’s little surprise that it continues to offer a spectacular visitor experience for the holy month.

No visit to Istanbul is complete of course without a trip to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – better known as the Blue Mosque – where Muslims pray at until this very day. Take a walk during iftar time and experience one of the many iftar tents where you can break fast with hundreds of people. These tents tend to welcome both Muslims and non-Muslims.

In the evening, plenty of markets and bazaars open, while there are also a lot of street performances of traditional folk dances and performances.

For food, try simit – a type of pretzel-like sesame seed bread – with a cup of Turkish coffee, as well as lahmacun (Turkish pizza), durum (doner kebab) or firin sutlac (baked rice pudding).

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE

The majority of Singapore’s population may be non-Muslim; however, the city still takes its Ramadan festivities seriously thanks to its Malay residents. One of the biggest highlights of visiting Singapore during the holy month is the Geylang Serai Ramadhan Bazaar, where all sorts of weird and wacky food creations can be found. There cafes dotted around the area, serving everything from Iranian to Lebanese cuisine.

Other markets worth visiting are OneKM Mall’s Ramadhan Flea Market – best for unique, one-of-a-kind souvenirs – plus the Woodlands Bazaar for the very best of Asian streetfood.

TUNIS, TUNISIA

Another city worth visiting during Ramadan, Tunis has been dubbed the “laid-back capital of Tunisia with easy access to Carthage and a very authentic souk”.

While this laid back vibe continues right into the early hours of the morning, expect that most shops and restaurants will be closed during the day, so reserve day outings for sight-seeing or chilling at your hotel. However, the markets and shops reopen after iftar, so there’s plenty of time for retail therapy.

Food is cheap, so make plenty of room for some delicious North African dishes, such as shorba frik (lamb soup), harissa (spicy chilli paste served with bread), merguez (spicy sausages) and bambaloony (fried sweet doughnut-like cakes served with sugar).

AMMAN, JORDAN

The Jordanian capital is another that’s quite quiet during the day, meaning there’s a chance to explore the sights that would normally be quite busy with tourists.

Downtown Amman is where it’s at post-iftar, with street gatherings lasting well into the night. Amman’s city-wide initiative, Citadel Nights – which hosts traditional shows and performances – is well worth a visit.

In terms of eating out, the two dishes you must tick off your to-try list is musakhan – comprising slices of bread, chicken, onions and spices – and mansaf – made of rice, lamb and jameed (a type of yoghurt). A word of warning though – don’t make plans straight after either, as you’ll need time to get over the food coma.

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