Are you planning on traveling to Tunisia during Ramadan? Or are you wondering if Ramadan is a good time of year for a Tunisia tour? Traveling in Tunisia during Ramadan can present challenges, but with just a little preparation you can have a great tour. Not only that, Ramadan is a festive time of year, so there are unique opportunities to experience Tunisian culture.
Read on to find out how to prepare for your travels in Tunisia during Ramadan and how to enjoy the festivities along the way!
Ramadan in Tunisia: A Brief Background and Perspective
Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims throughout the world fast from food and drink during daylight hours. Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, each year it moves back about 10 days. In 2023, it will start on March 22, so the following year it’ll start on March 12 (for more details on specific dates, check out this global holidays site).
Many Tunisians look forward to Ramadan because it’s a special season to focus on family and grow in personal piety. And like every great holiday, there’s delicious food and goodies specially made for the season!
Ramadan in Tunisia: Getting In On the Celebration
Like many holidays around the world, Ramadan is a celebratory season. It’s a month of fasting, but there’s also an emphasis on charitable acts, family, friends, food and fun (post-sunset)!
The iftar (called shaqan il fatr in Tunisia) is the evening meal when families break their fast. As a traveler in Tunisia, taking part in an iftar is a great way to enjoy the festivities and engage the culture. And because the food is usually a feast of the most traditional and tasty of Tunisian cuisine, it’s a win from every angle.
Think stuffed dates, spicy shorba (traditional soup), tasty brik (filo pastry filled with an egg mixture and deep fried), piping hot lamb or fish couscous, and a variety of salads and sides, all washed down with a glass of refreshing il binn (buttermilk). Hopefully that doesn’t fill you up too much because traditional cakes, fruit, and mint tea will be served for dessert!
There are a couple simple ways you can join an iftar meal during your travels in Tunisia:
1) Many restaurants open for iftar meals. Because the restaurants cater to the local crowd, you’ll get a traditional meal and an insight into Ramadan festivities. Restaurants that serve iftar meals range from simple budget options to fancy.
2) For a more interactive experience, several local NGOs, cultural centers, and local guest houses (maison d’hotes) organize iftar meals that have more of an event flair. The purpose is to provide a space for people to meet one another and share a meal. So it’s an opportunity to meet Tunisians and learn more about Ramadan traditions. The event might host traditional live music or poetry, and historical, or religious readings. Cultural café Dar Kmar in the Sousse medina and guest house Dar Ben Gacem in Tunis are examples of places that host Ramadan events like this.
Staying Culturally Sensitive During Ramadan in Tunisia
You might wonder if you can be culturally sensitive in Tunisia during Ramadan if you don’t fast. The simple answer is, absolutely! Tunisians understand that not everyone observes the fast. There’s also no expectation that travelers will be fasting.
If you consume food or drink in public, the respectful way to do it is to be discrete about it.
For example, if you’re exploring the Sousse medina (old city) and need a drink of water, step onto a quiet side street. Or, if you’ve packed a picnic lunch to eat while touring one of the many Roman sites, look for a place to sit away from the crowds. If you stop into a restaurant that’s open during the day, consume the food on-site, even if eating as you go would be more convenient.
If you’re traveling with one of our guides, they have plenty of experience helping travelers during Ramadan. They’ll be able to give you further insight into how to consume food and drink respectfully. Our guides will also be able to help you find good solutions for your meals.
Traveling in Tunisia During Ramadan: Knowing the Daily Rhythm
Ramadan is widely observed in Tunisia, so businesses, restaurants, and tour sites have adjusted schedules. The good thing is that the schedule isn’t random. There’s a daily rhythm that you can plan your tour days around.
Here are a few helpful points:
During the day:
Before the breaking of the fast:
- Shops close up, and most people head home at least a couple hours before the breaking of the fast
- Many restaurants open to serve iftar meals
After the breaking of the fast:
- Most restaurants and cafés open soon after the breaking of the fast and stay open into the wee hours of the night.
- Many Tunisians are out late visiting friends and family, so it can be surprisingly busy during the night.
Knowing this rhythm can help you plan your tour days. The main points you’ll want to plan around are that most restaurants and cafés are closed during the day and that things begin to shut down late afternoon as people head home.
Traveling in Tunisia During Ramadan: Planning Your Meals
A little planning of your meals can reduce the sense of inconvenience during Ramadan. You don’t need to have all your meals planned out ahead – even planning the next day is helpful.
Here are some ideas for what lunches and dinners can look like:
- Stop by a grocery store and pack a picnic lunch if you’ll be out site seeing during the day.
- Some restaurants that cater to tourists are open for lunch. It’s good to call ahead to a recommended restaurant and ask. Feel free to ask your hotel for recommendations. Your Engaging Cultures tour guide will know good options as well.
- Some days, you may find it convenient to return to your hotel for your midday meal.
- Consider booking hotels that offer buffet dinners so you can eat whenever it’s convenient.
- If your hotel doesn’t operate a buffet, you may be able to pre-order dinner. Usually, this will be a set menu.
- If you’d like to eat out, some restaurants serve an iftar meal at sunset. It’s helpful to choose a restaurant ahead of time to know when they start service and what kind of menu they offer. You can usually go in to ask or call ahead. If you find a good restaurant that’s convenient, consider going back another day.
Note about breakfasts:
Most hotels in Tunisia serve breakfast during Ramadan, so you’ll have this covered.
Traveling in Tunisia During Ramadan: A Chance To Engage
As the month of Ramadan now occurs during one of the best times of year to tour Tunisia, you may consider traveling during this season. Now you know how to make it work practically and make the most of the occasion!
If you have more questions about traveling in Tunisia during Ramadan, don’t hesitate to contact us today. And as you consider your travel plans, we’d love to work with you to build the perfect Tunisia tour, whether during Ramadan or another time of year.
Hello. My girlfriend and I are going to Tunisia at the start of April which we have now realized coincides with the start of Ramadan. We are staying in Marisa beach. What will the situation be like ? Will cafes, supermarkets or restaurants be open?
It’s great to hear that you’ll have the chance to travel to Tunisia this Spring. During Ramadan, you can expect the situation to be similar to what we’ve described on our blog here. You can expect most local cafes and restaurants to be closed during the day, but they will open in the evenings. Many restaurants will offer Iftar meals. As I write about in the article, taking part in an iftar is a great way to enjoy the festivities and engage the culture. Supermarkets might open a little bit late in the morning but will still operate during normal hours and maybe close for like an hour during the breaking of the fast.
Thanks again for stopping by, and let us know if there’s anything else we can help you with as you prepare for your travels in Tunisia!
Thanks for the blog and al the tips, very helpfull for preparing our trip! This april I’ll travel to Tunis and Sousse with a friend. We already arranged our hotels with breakfast included and I’m very excited to learn about and experience the Tunesian culture. From what I’ve read the streets will be more quiet around sunset. What would you recommend for us as tourists? Are there any activities / experiences that you would recommend during this time?
Thank you so much!
We are so glad you are visiting Tunisia. It could feel a little quiet right at the time the fast is broken, but cities liven up quickly as people get out to cafes for evening activities and visiting friends which stretch into the night. You’ll certainly want to get to a local restaurant to enjoy an iftar dinner. They are typically served as multi course meals starting with some water and dates filled with butter and chemia, a local favorite made of ground sesame and different nuts. Soup, salad and your main course of choice will follow. It is a very fun way to experience the culture at a very unique time of year.
Have an amazing trip and thank you for visiting the blog!
Thanks for the article. I will be in Tunisia starting April 12-22 which includes the end of Ramadan. Will louages still run or are less people traveling during this time? Also, what about train schedules?
The train website is quite difficult to navigate on mobile so trying to determine how this will work.
Hello and thanks for your question! On the first day of Eid (most likely April 21 of this year), transportation is hard to come by in general. Louages between major routes are easier to get on the second and third day of Eid. Based on our experience, we recommend using louages instead of trains as a more reliable transportation option. If you decide to use the train, we recommend going to the train station in well in advance to buy a ticket (one day prior, if possible). There will be high demand for train tickets the day before the Eid as many people travel home to visit family. I hope this is helpful!