Morocco – Visiting a Muslim Country During Ramadan
We visited Morocco during Ramadan, not on purpose. We planned the trip, booked the airplane tickets, and realized weeks later that our trip fell during this special religious holiday. Too late to change plans, we had no choice but to make it work. We didn’t know if it would be a positive or a negative experience in the end. Maybe that’s why we got great prices on our flights? Except for the occasional waiting for our waiter to finish breaking his fast before he could take our order at dinner, overall, visiting Morocco during Ramadan was a very positive experience.
Today I’m sharing some Ramadan focused travel stories from our time in Morocco that I hold dear. We visited Tétouan, Fez, Moulay Idriss, and Chefchaouen during this Morocco trip and had special Ramadan centered cultural experiences in all of these cities.
Visiting Tétouan, Morocco During Ramadan
Let me start out with a funny story that happened to us in Tétouan. After a long day of sightseeing, we were hungry for dinner and craving something savory. We found a place that sold pizza and decided that sounded perfect. After sitting down at a table, we were approached by our waiter. He spoke to us in French and asked us a question. Nate shook his head yes and confidently said, “Oui, Oui!” The waiter walked away. I asked Nate what the man said. Nate had studied French in the past, so I thought that he understood him. Nate laughed and said he wasn’t sure, but he just said yes anyway thinking it would be fine. So, we had just said yes to our waiter, and we didn’t even know what we had said yes to!
About 10 minutes later we knew what we had said yes to, and it wasn’t at all what we were expecting. Three waiters came to our table with trays of food. It definitely wasn’t pizza. In front of us they placed a large spread of Moroccan breakfast foods, ones that many Moroccans traditionally eat when they are breaking their fast. Our table was full of many sweet things – all different types of dates, a variety of Moroccan pastries, fresh milk, hard boiled eggs, croissants, Moroccan pancakes, cornbread, and jams and jellies.
We started to laugh… and couldn’t stop. This was not what we had planned to eat that night. Nate had said yes to the traditional Ramadan breakfast, one order for each of us! There was a special Ramadan only menu on our table that we hadn’t seen until right then. It listed all of these foods for a special price specifically for Ramadan. We now had a table full of sweet food when what we came in for was some savory, cheesy, greasy pizza. Oh well! It was our own fault and we were stuck with it. We made the best of it and didn’t care in the end because it ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of our whole trip.
We looked around the restaurant and everyone had tables full of food, just like us, but not a single person was actually eating. No one. Everyone was sitting and waiting. Lots of waiting. Children were getting impatient but were still very obedient, not snitching even a bite. We sat and waited too, for how long, we don’t know. We weren’t fasting like everyone else, but we were very hungry, and waiting was really difficult. But we knew it was considered rude not to wait, so of course waiting is what we did. It was during that time that it hit us. This was a unforgettable travel experience that we were having that we will never forget!
Here we were, sitting in a restaurant in Tétouan Morocco, breaking the fast with local Moroccan families during Ramadan. We were the only non-Moroccan, non-Muslim people in the whole restaurant. We stuck out like sore thumbs – with Nate’s American baseball cap, Jimmy’s bright blonde hair, and all of our westernized summer clothing. We were sitting right in the middle of a religious Ramadan tradition, and without even meaning to, were fully participating in it as well. What a night!
Suddenly, without anything obvious to tell us, (that we noticed at least) everyone in the restaurant simultaneously dove into their food. They weren’t wasting any time. The waiting was over and they were ready to eat! One second everyone was relaxing and staring at their food, and then the next, everyone was eating. How they knew it was time, we weren’t sure, but we didn’t ask. We dove in too and enjoyed all the special foods, breaking the fast with the Moroccans of Tétouan.
Visiting Fez, Morocco During Ramadan
One of the most interesting things that we observed during Ramadan in Fez, was the preparing of foods before the breaking of the fast. Around 6:30 - 7:00 PM while walking around the Medina, we saw people preparing their dinner, chopping, seasoning, cooking, etc. I could tell these meals they were making were special. They hadn’t eaten all day, and they were going to make this meal tasty. Once the food was hot and ready, I then saw the waiting begin. From about 7:20 PM and on, you would see people sitting along the roads with their food, waiting to devour it. They were counting down the minutes. After fasting all day, I am sure that those last few minutes are the hardest to endure. It was obvious that they were very hungry and anxious to eat what they had prepared. But being the obedient Muslims that they were, they waited. The Call to Prayer was then played very loudly throughout the town of Fez over the big speakers, and all the hungry people anxiously dove into their food.
One of the most interesting things during Ramadan in Morocco was the apparent change of energy from before the Call to Prayer to after. Before the Call to Prayer, there was an undeniable energy in the air, full of anticipation and excitement, that was easily felt. There were people chattering and children playing – a constant buzz. The noise level was high as people prepared and anticipated their first meal of the day. Then the scheduled Call to Prayer blared loudly through the large speakers on top of the mosques, announcing to the people of Fez that it was now time to break their fasts.
Suddenly, pure silence. The whole town of Fez instantly sounded dead. The buzz stopped. The chatter stopped. A reverence came over the city. Everyone was silent because they were busy eating. No time for talking, just eating. As we roamed the streets of Fez after the Call to Prayer, there was a quiet hush over the whole town that was drastically different than we had just experienced minutes before, or any other time of the day. Everyone that we saw was focused and quietly eating. In fact, often times, we were the only ones that weren’t.
Watching and being there to witness this whole thing take place night after night was such a learning experience for us. We learned so much about the culture of Morocco, about Ramadan, and about how the breaking of the fast works. We came away from our trip with new knowledge and expanded worldviews, which I will always treasure. Experiences like these are my favorite type of travel moments.
Visiting Moulay Idriss, Morocco During Ramadan
We were shown such kindness during our time in Moulay Idriss, Morocco. At one point in the day, Jimmy needed a snack and was very thirsty. We saw a young man selling orange juice on the side of the road, so we stopped to get some. We ordered Jimmy a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a Moroccan specialty. As Jimmy drank it, we talked to this young man and were so impressed by him. Sadly, I don’t remember his name. He was 19 years old. He had lived in this small town of Moulay Idriss, Morocco his whole life and had never left. He sold orange juice every day. He was so kind, humble, and sweet to us, telling us all about his country and the things that he loved about it. We were so impressed by his language skills. He said he never officially studied English but just picked it up from the tourists that he interacted with on a daily basis. He did the same with other languages as well and confidently spoke a variety of languages other than his native languages of French and Arabic.
We then met his father and his good friend. They all greeted us to their country warmly and were such kind people, speaking English surprisingly well. They gave Jimmy a loaf of bread to eat alongside his orange juice. After talking for maybe 15 minutes, they graciously invited us to celebrate Ramadan with their family and break the fast with them that evening. We thanked them for their kindness but politely declined. We already had plans to visit Volubilis Roman ruins that evening and knew if we didn’t go that night that we wouldn’t have time to see it during our trip. Looking back at it, I wish we could have made time to spend with them for the breaking of the fast. I know we missed out on an amazing and personal cultural experience that probably we would have talked about for years and years to come. Such kind people to invite us foreigners to be together with them and their loved ones doing something that to them is so holy and personal.
Visiting Chefchaouen, Morocco During Ramadan
A fun thing about visiting Morocco during Ramadan was the large variety of Moroccan pastries that are available to purchase. I know I’ve talked on and on about them in the past, but they are worth talking about. You can get Moroccan pastries any time in Morocco but not like you can during Ramadan. When you visit Morocco during Ramadan the selection is vast! There are Moroccan pastries being sold everywhere you turn, with so many different types to choose from. They make special ones that you can only enjoy during this time of year. Make sure to order one of each. They are all so different and all so good. We found the Moroccan pastries in Chefchaouen to be some of our favorites.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Morocco and it happens to fall during Ramadan, don’t hesitate or rethink your decision. You’ll have a thought provoking travel experience that will stick with you forever. Your knowledge of Ramadan and Muslim traditions will be vastly extended. It’s worth doing. I’m sure you’ll have a memorable time!
As always, feel free to leave me a question or a comment below. Happy traveling!