If you’ve just booked a trip to Jordan in April or May 2020 (or between the dates of Thursday April 23 and Saturday May 23 2020 to be exact), your holiday is likely to coincide with Ramadan. While some would say it’s a difficult time to visit Jordan, it’s not! This post tells you all the information you need to help you plan your visit, including a quick overview on the festival itself and what it’s like to visit Jordan in Ramadan time. I’ll also share some advice on how to respect the tradition and in what ways Ramadan is likely to affect your trip.
So firstly, a bit of background…
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, during which most Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours as a demonstration of surrender and test of temptation. Its main purpose is to remind followers to be grateful for the things they have, and to be conscious of those that have nothing. Many Muslims also take part in charitable giving throughout Ramadan to support those in need.
When is Ramadan in Jordan?
As a Muslim country, Jordan observes Ramadan. Of course, the dates of Ramadan are not set in stone and depend entirely on the moon. However, early forecasts suggest that Ramadan 2020 will take place in Jordan (and the rest of the world!) between the dates of Thursday 23rd April and Saturday 23rd May. The dates change every year, so keep an eye on the Muslim Aid website for confirmed dates nearer the time.
What’s it like to visit Jordan in Ramadan?
The biggest concerns for tourists when visiting Jordan in Ramadan understandably involve the rules around eating and drinking, and whether tourist attractions and restaurants will remain open. You don’t need to worry – other than being conscious of the people around you who are fasting, your trip will be largely unaffected.
Do tourists have to observe Ramadan? Can I eat and drink in Jordan during Ramadan as a tourist?
I suppose the real question here is ‘can non-Muslim tourists eat during Ramadan?’ and the answer is ‘yes’. Jordanians don’t expect non-Muslim tourists to observe Ramadan, however please be respectful of the people around you that are taking part. That means you should try not to eat or drink in public during daylight hours to help the Muslims taking part to avoid temptation.
As we know, respect is a huge part of ethical travel, so you should also be conscious of the people you come into contact with, such as your local driver or guide. Remember they probably won’t have eaten or had a drink all day – their energy levels will be low so don’t bombard them with questions or show up late! Imagine how hard it must be to spend a day giving tours in the blazing heat in the Middle East without even a sip of water!
Will the restaurants still be open in Jordan over Ramadan?
During the day, some local restaurants will be closed as they won’t have any local mouths to feed. Yet, once the sun has set, many of the restaurants will re-open and be ready to serve you as normal.
In large cities and the biggest tourist attractions, you should still be able to find somewhere to eat breakfast and lunch. In Petra, for example, most cafes and snack spots at the site remain open to serve tourists. In Amman, there are a number of cafes and restaurants for you to choose from too. Our favourite was the Wild Jordan Cafe, just off Rainbow Street. Though not traditionally Jordanian, it’s a great place to eat during Ramadan thanks to its focus on eco-tourism and delicious ethically sourced food and drink.
Most supermarkets will also be open throughout the day. Safeway is Jordan’s biggest supermarket chain and you’ll find one in most towns and cities. They sell bread, fresh fruit, nuts and a whole load of other snacks and refreshments that you could bring together into a makeshift picnic if you get stuck.
Eid al-Fitr is the Muslim festival to celebrate the end of Ramadan. It’s normally marked by prayers in the Mosque and then a large family feast at home with friends and family. Many shops and restaurants will be closed on this day to allow staff to celebrate with their families, so make sure you’re prepared with snacks just in case.
Can I drink alcohol in Jordan in Ramadan?
It’s rare to find places to buy alcohol in Jordan during Ramadan. In addition to the daylight fasting, Muslims abstain from consuming alcohol throughout the whole of Ramadan, so the vast majority of liquor stores will be closed. Jordan hotels and restaurants with a largely tourist clientele may serve you alcohol, but this is entirely at their own discretion.
Should I fast during Ramadan as a tourist?
If you want to join in and try fasting, good on you! But there are a few things to consider. Consider what you will be doing on the days you choose to fast, for example you shouldn’t attempt to hike through Petra on an empty stomach and without any water. Not only is it very difficult, but it’s also very stupid. You may not be used to the heat and your body needs its precious energy more than ever when on a strenuous hike! However, if you’re having a lazy day in your hotel room or travelling between sites on a bus, it’s far easier to fast. Give it a go for a day to see what it’s like for the locals!
Are tourist attractions in Jordan open during Ramadan?
You should check with the individual attractions closer to your trip, but most Jordanian tourist attractions stay open and only slightly adjust their normal opening hours during Ramadan. You may find that the attractions open a little later or close slightly earlier to allow their staff to make the most of their non-fasting time. For completeness, I’ve covered the most popular attractions below:
- Petra opening hours during Ramadan: 7am – 4pm
- Amman Citadel opening hours during Ramadan: 8am – 3pm
- Amman Theater opening hours during Ramadan: 8am – 3pm
- Jerash opening hours during Ramadan: 8am – 3pm
- Wadi Rum opening hours during Ramadan: It’s a desert… it’ll be open!
- Public transport during Ramadan: You’ll be able to get around just fine during the day, but remember that it will be almost impossible to get anywhere in the hour or so before iftar as drivers will want to be with their families ready to break the fast.
Should I still go to Jordan in Ramadan?
Yes! The advantages of visiting Jordan during Ramadan far outweigh any inconvenience associated with it. In fact, the country is even more wonderful during Ramadan, with the streets filled with lights and festive decorations. Jordanian Muslims will greet each other with “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” to wish them a blessed or generous Ramadan, so be sure to join in too.
For me, the best part is how Jordan comes alive in the evenings. Once the sun has set, everyone joins together for iftar – the evening meal that breaks the fast in their homes, restaurants or even out on the streets. In Amman, you must visit Hashem to experience iftar. Waiters begin serving food about 10 minutes it begins, to make sure everyone can eat as soon as the Call to Prayer rings out over the city. It’s fascinating to look around the courtyard as customers wait patiently for the all-clear to tuck in, before breaking their fast by gulping down water and munching on dates in honour of Mohammed. This is when the city really comes alive. It’s a joyous occasion that everyone should experience at least once in their lives – even non-Muslims.
Are you planning a trip to Jordan during Ramadan? Or have you spent Ramadan in Jordan? How did you find it? If you have other tips to share, please leave me a comment below!
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