BY INSI

TRAVEL ADVISORY: Ramadan

The month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This year, the first day of fasting is on Tuesday 9 July. It lasts until Wednesday 7 August.

Some Muslim countries are stricter than others. While the following advice does not apply to all countries you may wish to err on the side of caution until otherwise advised.

If you are living or working in a Muslim country you should consider the following:

Getting there

When applying for visas, leave plenty of time for processing as embassies may close.

Expect delays in airports and be prepared to wait. Consider that it may well take longer for your luggage to arrive. You may wish to bring water and even a snack with you, but consider eating and drinking away from public places.

Getting to see people

Remember that shorter working hours are the norm and it is likely that some things will take longer than usual.

You may find it difficult to get appointments when you want them and people may be reluctant to give interviews. 

Ministries close down and shopping hours and restaurant opening times may vary. Some restaurants may only be open in the evenings.

Eating and drinking

There is no eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.

In some areas it is unacceptable for foreigners to drink in front of Muslims in public places during Ramadan. In some countries this is punishable by arrest.

Be careful about drinking whilst driving or sitting in the car as this can also be a punishable offence in some countries.

There is absolutely no drinking alcohol. You may be able to buy alcohol in hotels but be aware that drinking it in front of your hosts could be considered rude. 

Many families go to pray after sunset and then eat around 10pm. This may well be when your news broadcasts go to air, so plan your day accordingly and work out when you are going to eat and drink.

Other

Do not smoke in public.

Avoid physical contact between members of the opposite sex.

Travelling

Rush hour times may vary from normal, and the roads may be busy at sunrise and sunset. Tempers can fray in traffic or whilst driving due to dehydration. Many road traffic incidents happen during Ramadan due to rushing to get home or the effects of not drinking enough water.

Foreign women may decide to wear a headscarf as a sign of respect when visiting local interviewees.

Notes

In the heat of Middle East and African summers you are likely to become dehydrated if you are not careful. You should drink water but consider drinking it off the street, out of sight and in a closed environment. 

Respect the religious festival of Ramadan but look after your health. Check the colour of your urine frequently and if yellow or brown and not clear you must drink more water. See INSI's advisory for working in hot weather for more information.


Note: The views here are those of the author and are personal reflections and advice. They are meant to assist the international traveller for working during Ramadan and are not meant to be negative in nature. If they cause offence to anyone, sincerest apologies are offered in advance. INSI holds no responsibility for any ensuing problems in relation to this advice.

Photo: A Palestinian woman buys traditional Ramadan decorations at a store in the West Bank city of Jenin, Monday, July 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)