5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT MARRAKECH DURING RAMADAN
There’s something magical about Ramadan nights. Maybe it’s the sparkling lights and festive atmosphere, maybe it’s the food (what many people don’t realise about the month of fasting is that the nights are all about the feasting), maybe it’s simply the moon, but one thing’s for sure, it’s truly one of the most extraordinary times to visit a Muslim country.
This year Ramadan falls between April 2nd and May 1st, so the weather is perfect for exploring. Not too hot, not too cold, with plenty of balmy days to spend basking by the pool. We asked our front office manager and long-time Marrakech resident, Belaid Oubrik, to share his tips for a Ramadan experience you’ll never forget.
- Marrakech doesn’t change much during Ramadan. It’s such a popular destination, 80% of businesses carry on pretty much as normal. Some restaurants start dinner service a little bit later than usual, nearly all continue to serve alcohol, and activities and travel services are the same as at any other time of year. The biggest difference you’ll see is around 7pm for f’tour (or iftar – the breaking of the fast) when the city becomes abnormally quiet.
- As the sun sets a canon is sounded, which is a thrill for anyone unfamiliar with the ritual. At this point the streets are suddenly deserted as people rush home to join their families for f’tour (the meal that breaks the fast). Venture out now – no cars, no people, barely even a cat – and you’ll experience Marrakech as if it’s stopped in time.
- At about 8pm people start coming out again for the evening prayer called Tarawih. This is the most famous, and probably the most important moment of Ramadan. While foreign tourists can’t go into the mosques, the Koutoubia mosque is so busy that no cars are allowed to drive in the vicinity between 8pm and 10.30pm and many of the prayers end up happening outside. It’s quite wonderful to watch the ritual from one of the restaurants or cafes on the Jemma al Fna and get to see what a religious culture looks like.
- Arrive early as the Jemma al Fna gets very busy. Because it’s more intimate and family-based, it’s the most authentic place to break the fast with locals. We recommend Café Zeitoune or Café Argana if you want to combine with a f’tour buffet, or Café France if you’re happy to just have coffee or a soft drink.
- We don’t offer f’tour at El Fenn, but there are plenty of other places to choose from. We love Café Clock, which combines feasting with various cultural activities such as traditional music or storytelling, and the Amal Foundation for excellent home-cooked, traditional Ramadan specialities. Don’t forget, Ramadan is all about giving, and there are lots of associations doing great things. Please ask at the front desk if you’d like a way to be more involved.