Iran is an Islamic country. A large portion of the population is Muslim, which means, Ramadan has a huge impact on society all around the country. Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world. You can see lots of religious and local rituals held this month. From night praying to sharing food with others and reading the Quran, all can create an unforgettable experience for tourists. Before going on a tour to Iran during Ramadan, you’d better get more familiar with this month and know what to expect.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan or Ramazan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. for Muslims, Ramadan is a month of fasting and praying. Beside fasting, which is considered the main ritual of Ramadan, lots of more traditional or religious activities take place that define the Iranian culture. In some more religious cities like Qom and Mashhad, Ramadan creates a completely different atmosphere providing a unique experience for visitors.
Traveling during Ramadan in Iran: Date and Considerations
Ramadan is not an ideal time for native Muslim travelers to go on a trip. But for others (foreign Muslims or non-Muslims) it is an opportunity. Next year, Ramadan in Iran will start on 4th of Ordibehesht (24 April 2020) and will end on 3rd of Khordad (23 May 2020). The date of Ramadan is not constant in the Gregorian calendar and each year it starts 10 days earlier from the year before.
While observing the rituals and experiencing them can be interesting, it’s important to know you have limitations too. First of all, in some cities, lots of people don’t eat or drink anything during the day. Even those who are not fasting respect the rest and try not to eat or drink in public, so it’s better you respect them too. Islamic law imposes fasting on all Muslims. However, those who are under a certain age or have certain condition or so, are not included. Islam has other rules to determine if a person should or should not fast during Ramadan, which we leave it out here. But in short, we can say that tourists don’t have to fast.
During Ramadan] pay extra attention to alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is illegal in Iran, so one of the most important rules for tourists is not to drink alcohol, especially during Ramadan. Generally, in Islamic countries, it’s not a wise decision to drink during Ramadan as it’s Haram (forbidden by the religion).
To know Islam better, you should know there are other restrictions for women, but tourists don’t have to obey them all. For female travelers, it’s enough to just cover their hair and body.
With the bigger portion of the population fasting, having access to open restaurants and other services may be very limited in some places. With all these being said, traveling during Ramadan means you should be a little more prepared than any other time. It’s better to have a bottle of water and some reserved food; it can come in handy if you’re in a small city or in a hurry.
Also, it’s wise not to have a busy plan for evenings as it’s almost Iftar time. Things could be a little out of control if you try to go somewhere or do something During Iftar. Iftar is the time Muslims break their fasts as the day comes to its end. During sunset, people get together mostly in their homes and prepare for a delicious meal after enduring hunger for a day.
What you can eat during Ramadan in Iran?
Speaking of the delicious meals, Ramadan is a good time to know more about regular foods served at Iftar and Sahar. Because people don’t eat during the day, they have only the night to refuel. It could be different but usually it is done through 2 meals. One is Iftar which is the food eaten in the sunset and the other is Sahar (or Suhur or Suhoor) and is consumed at dawn. In the early morning before fasting starts, many people wake up and have food which they have probably prepared the night before. These 2 meals are different. Iftar is supposed to ease the thirst and make up for the lost energy during the fast, while Suhur is rather a lighter meal, preferably with more water. As a traveler to Iran, you’ll see lots of people stay up all night, especially if Ramadan is in summer. In late spring and early summer, the time between Iftar and Sahar could be even less than 8 hours!
Honestly, Ramadan in Iran is a month of eating rather than fasting! You can have all the most delicious traditional and modern dishes in a month; just wait until Iftar, and you will get to meet some new friends and have some new food. However, be careful not to eat too much sugary and sweet foods. Zulbia (deep fried sweetened flour), Bamieh (you can say Persian doughnut), Halva, Fereni (traditional Iranian pudding dessert), [and] Shole Zard (another traditional Iranian rice pudding dessert with Saffron) are always to be found in every Iranian house during Ramadan. Different types of soups are also very common which can help to quench thirst.
Where should a traveler go during Ramadan?
Beside all of the amazing foods available and interesting rituals all around, there are some fascinating places you can enjoy during this month. Ramadan is a good time to visit some of the best tourist attractions as they are less crowded. To experience the rituals and activities of people during this month you can be in any city, but if you want to have more engagement, you probably need someone who knows where to take you.
Rituals and Important events in Ramadan:
Other than regular activities that can be seen all around during Ramadan in Iran, 3 nights in addition to 2 days are very important.
3 Qadr nights
Muslims believe the Holy Quran has been sent to their prophet, Mohammad on one of these nights. Therefore, these 3 nights are very special for them. During these 3 nights, people stay awake all night and pray. Reading the whole Quran and other special prayers are among the characteristic activities of these nights. The first night is the 19th night of Ramadan. The second one is 21st and is even more important because of the Martyrdom Anniversary of Imam Ali, the first Imam of Shia Muslims. The last night is the 23rd night of Ramadan. As Islam is the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a special exception for working time has been considered for the day after these nights as a consideration for all Muslims who stayed up. Working time on the day after Qadr starts from 9:00 A.m. instead of 7:30 A.m., meaning you’d better don’t plan much for the early morning.
The first day of the next month is Eid for Muslims. It’s a 2-day celebration and festival as fasting days and holy Ramadan ends. This day is truly wonderful as everyone and everything changes. Suddenly there are lots of food everywhere. Food sharing and family reunions create an absolutely joyful atmosphere all around the country. The extra day off work, means a lot of people plan to go on a trip, especially if the Eid is at the end or start of the week. It’s an official holiday which means shops, museums, etc., are closed.
Generally, during Ramadan in Iran, most tourist attractions are less crowded. In addition, Ramadan is one of the best times you can have a full view of Iranian culture, belief, lifestyle and everything all together while enjoying different tourist attractions and tasting various types of food from different regions and don’t forget the nightlife of people, which hugely increases in appearance during this month!
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