Are you planning on traveling to Tunisia during Ramadan? Or perhaps you’re wondering if Ramadan is a good time of year to plan 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 2022, it will start around April 2, so the following year it’ll start on March 22 (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, 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 are catering 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 all the way to fancy.
2) For a more interactive experience, a number of local NGO’s, 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 there might be poetry, historical, or religious readings. Cultural café Dar Kmar in the Sousse medina and guest house Dar Ben Gacem in Tunis are two examples of places that host Ramadan events like this.
Tunisians prepare for an iftar meal on the rooftop of Cafe Kemour in the Sfax Medina
Staying Culturally Sensitive During Ramadan in Tunisia
You might be wondering 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 to do so. 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 in to 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 in a respectful way. 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:
Most restaurants and cafés are closed
Tourist sites are on a shortened schedule (plan on closures 3 hours or so before sunset)
Small food shops open later in the morning
Supermarkets are open during normal hours
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 of time – 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 for you.
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, it’s very possible that you’ll consider traveling during this season. Now you know how to make it work practically, and how to 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 in building the perfect Tunisia tour, whether it’s during Ramadan or another time of year.
Planning a trip to Tunisia? At Engaging Cultures Travel, we're passionate about introducing travelers to the country we love. Fill in our custom tour form and get a free quote for a Tunisia itinerary perfectly tailored to your interests and needs.
Austin learned the power of authentic travel during a year home-stay experience in Brazil. Since then, he’s been passionate about connecting deeply with other cultures and helping fellow travelers do the same. He and his wife have lived in Tunisia for several years. He continues to be surprised by the hidden gems the country has to offer, as well as the hospitality and kindness of the Tunisian people.
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