Spotlight on: visiting Marrakesh during Ramadan
With Ramadan generally meaning a wind-down all over the Muslim world, you might expect that the red city of Marrakesh shuts up shop for the month, but that isn’t exactly the case. While the holy month means that many in Muslim-majority Morocco will be fasting during daylight hours, that doesn’t mean that Marrakesh is in any way off limits (though it might make finding an end-of-the-day beer a bit harder).
For travellers, the main difference will be the shortened opening hours, as many business and sights close either earlier in the day or for a chunk of the evening as Muslims gather together to break fast in a meal known as iftar. Here are some tips on visiting Marrakesh during Ramadan.
The medina of Marrakesh will likely be quieter during Ramadan, as locals prefer to relax at home © Huang Zheng / Shutterstock
Enjoy the quiet streets
Much of Marrakesh’s old city will be quieter during the days in Ramadan as locals choose to spend the fasting days relaxed at home and then venture out at night. For those put off by medina crowds, it could be an excellent time to traverse winding streets that would otherwise be swamped. Food markets get busy again during the afternoon as people prepare for the large evening meal.
The evening iftar meal breaks the day’s fast during Ramadan © Mohamed Imzilen / Getty Images
Find an iftar dinner
Stories abound of travellers being called in off the street by friendly Moroccans for the nightly iftar celebrations when Muslims break the day’s fast with a communal meal. Whilst serendipity might strike for you, if you want a definite dinner, it’s best to look at local restaurants. Noted culture-hub-turned-restaurant Cafe Clock offers a nightly iftar buffet for Dh70 a head.
Swap the spirits for a softie, such as a juice from the stalls around Djemaa El Fna square © cornfield / Shutterstock
While not impossible, alcohol will be harder to find all over the country during Ramadan with some Muslims refusing to even touch the bottles during the holy month. Larger hotels aimed at tourists are likely to still serve booze though many smaller bars will close for the period or stay open while not serving alcohol. The popular 68 Bar A Vin, as one example, will close for the whole month. Supermarket alcohol shops will sometimes be open but might ask to see your passport as proof you’re not a local. The extra hassle means it might not be a bad idea to spend the trip sober; swap your end-of-the-day beer for a stop at the juice carts on the Marrakesh’s central Djemaa El Fna square.
Sunset over the popular Djemaa El Fna Square in Marrakesh © posztos / Shutterstock
Move your action to the night time
Though the quiet days and rising temperatures might give the city a listless feel during Ramadan, Marrakesh will very much come alive again at night. Many Muslims, having broken fast at sundown, will then head out to meet with friends and family late into the evening. Consider indulging in the greatest of past times: the afternoon nap, and then staying up later into the night as Djemaa El Fna and the nouvelle ville fill up with full stomached Moroccans looking for a friends and fun.
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