by Fredrick Mwange
april 24, 2019

Zanzibar During Ramadan

The beautiful island of Zanzibar, known as the Spice Island, lies off Africa’s east coast and is famous for its incredible beaches, watersports, and diverse marine life. The island is simultaneously exploding with culture and history. It’s a destination of choice for both explorers and for those who want to simply step away from stress and unwind for a while.

Zanzibar, a part of Tanzania, is made up of two main islands and several small ones in the Indian Ocean. Unguja, the main island is usually referred to informally as Zanzibar. The historical World Heritage Site of Stone Town is in the center of the capital, Zanzibar City.

Pemba is slightly smaller and less popular with tourists but is nonetheless an attraction in its own right.

Forged through a history of invasions and different colonial rulers over the centuries, the winding streets and high townhouses of Stone Town are fascinating. Visitors can enjoy sightseeing and walking freely around the Sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort, merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city.

STONE TOWN_ZANZIBAR

Cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices that have made the island famous are still grown throughout Zanzibar, and a spice tour is a popular and interesting excursion.

For wildlife enthusiasts, a sighting of the endemic and endangered Kirk’s Red Colobus monkey is a must, in addition to the myriad of marine species that can be encountered through a snorkeling or diving trip.

WHITE_SAND_BEACH_ZANZIBAR

The soft, white sand of Zanzibar’s beaches will not disappoint. The variety of destinations across the islands offer coral reefs, sand bars, ocean swimming, dhow trips, kite surfing, dolphin viewing and simply relaxing and reading a book in the shade of the sun.

How to Behave During Ramadan on Zanzibar

While Zanzibar offers so much and welcomes its tourism with open arms, it is respectful of its culture. It is predominantly Muslim, and respect for Muslim values is always appreciated, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan marks the revelation of the Quran by Allah to Prophet Mohammed and during Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for a full thirty days. Fasting means refraining from drinking, eating, smoking, arguing, sex, and cursing. For Muslims, it is much more than just fasting: it is time for spiritual reflection, prayer, charity, and humanity.

If you are traveling to Zanzibar during Ramadan here are some helpful tips for your stay:

  • 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.
  • Some Muslim owned restaurants are completely closed during Ramadan in Zanzibar, while other restaurants simply close their outside terrace and patios but continue to serve inside. If you walk around you will still be sure to find somewhere delicious to eat.
  • The famous Forodhani Gardens by the waterfront are quiet during the day, but after sunset, it gets lively and fun as the fast is broken and food is served.
  • Modest dress code is applicable at all times when in public and not only during Ramadan. Women should cover their shoulders with a scarf, wear minimum 3/4 length sleeved tops and wear at least knee-length skirts or long trousers. Women are not expected to cover their heads. Men should wear long trousers.
  • Public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum at all times. Holding hands is acceptable, but nothing more unless you are somewhere more private or secluded.

Beyond these rules, Zanzibar is very much open for business during Ramadan. You can still enjoy an ice cold beer at your resort, swim in your favourite bikini, and enjoy your trip, but being respectful of the local culture is a great way to endear yourself to the locals.

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