Basic Ramadan Etiquette on Zanzibar During Ramadan
If you are travelling to Zanzibar during Ramadan celebration you should know some do’ s and don’ts. We have compiled the most important hints for those who previously have not been on Zanzibar during the Ramadan period.
- 6 May – 4 June 2019
- 24 April – 23 May 2020
99 percent of Zanzibar population is Muslim, therefore the celebration of Ramadan is big deal and travellers have to understand and respect the Ramadan etiquette.
Ramadan marks the revelation of Quran by Allah to Prophet Mohammed and during Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for full thirty days. Fasting means refraining from drinking, eating, smoking, arguing, sex and cursing. For Muslims is much more than just fasting and refraining, it is time for spiritual reflection, prayer, for charity and humanity.
Ramadan Etiquette on Zanzibar
1.Don’t Eat, Drink or Smoke in Public During the Day
Don’t eat, drink or smoke in public during the Ramadan. It’s not against the law to eat in public, but it is considered impolite, while so many people are fasting.
Restaurants During Ramadan on Zanzibar
Some Muslim owned restaurants are completely closed during Ramadan on Zanzibar, while other restaurants respect the day fasting time and close the terrace and patios for serving food and drinks outside. (Monsoon restaurant for example serves only inside)
Some restaurants are closed only during Ramadan daytime and not serving alcohol on general. To name a few:
- Passing Show Restaurant,
- Clove Garden,
- Dolphin Restaurant,
- Archipelago Café and Restaurant.
Many restaurants in Stone Town are closed during the day (not all, but for sure restaurants, run by Muslim owners while most resorts on the beach are excluded).While on the beach during Ramadan on Zanzibar you will probably not notice any difference. Private hotels and resorts will serve alcoholic drinks and meals. But you will be reminded to follow Ramadan etiquette if you leave hotel property.
Don’t panic there are plenty of restaurants left open in Stone Town, just go around the town and you will find a nice place to eat. Indian Vegan restaurant Radha House, Stone Town Café, Livingstone Café, Traveler’s Café, Mercury’s are just few of many restaurants that keep operating normally despite Ramadan on Zanzibar.
Also Forodhani Gardens are quiet during the day, but in after the sunset this famous food market gets lively and food is ready for sale.
2. Greet With Ramadan Greetings
It is common to use Ramadan greeting when greeting Muslim people. For the time of Ramadan use greeting »Ramadan Kareem« greeting while the last three days during Eid celebrations greet »Eid Mubarak«. It is great thing to at least learn some Swahili basics!
If you are going on the beach, don’t worry. Within resorts and hotels you will enjoy as usual, but you will be warned if you leave the resort to respect the Ramadan etiquette.
3. Dress Appropriately
Modest dress code should not apply only during Ramadan on Zanzibar, but also on general. Women should cover shoulders with scarf or wearing 3/ 4 sleeved tops and wear at least knee high skirts or long trousers. Men should wear long trousers too. Covering head is not expected from female travellers.
4. Don’t Kiss and Publicly Display Affection
Public displays of affection on Zanzibar during Ramadan should be kept to a minimum with Ramdan or not. Holding hands is acceptable, but nothing more unless you are somewhere more private or secluded.
5. Have a Siku Kuu Dinner
Siku kuu in Swahili, means Eid al – Fitr Dinner. Eid al – Fitr means Feast of breaking the fast. Eid lasts three days and marks the end of Ramadan. During this time people spend the time together, having big dinners with family and friends. In case you are invited to Siku kuu dinner, kindly accept the invitation and show up with small thank you gift – fruits or sweets will be ok. In case you are just an ordinary tourist on Zanzibar with no local friends, go for Eid al- FItr dinner to hotel. Hotels on Zanzibar at this time offer festive dinners. It would be a huge culinary miss not to try it out.
There Are Some Other Things to Keep in Mind While Visiting Zanzibar Regardless of Ramadan
- Topless sunbathing is not allowed!
- Homosexuality on Zanzibar is illegal.
- Taking photographs of locals without prior permission like everywhere in the world is not only rude and shows disrespect – ASK before taking photos of people – some locals may ask for payment.
- Don’t enter mosques on your own without prior permission from someone in charge. Many mosques do not allow non Muslims to enter.
- Some hotels usually run by Muslims will not sell or allow alcohol consumption on the property; as well it will not be served. Respect this if you are staying in a hotel that not allows alcohol! This mostly not applies for tourist resorts. Hotels not serving alcohol in Stone Town are Zenji Hotel, Tembo House, Dhow palace Hotel.