Ramadan (called Ramezan in Iran) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The most important ritual Muslims do in this month is Fasting, Which means refusing to eat or drink anything from dawn to sunset. Moreover, they try not to commit sinful acts like lying, getting angry or doing harm to other people. It is said in the Quran that every good deed you do in this month is considered more valuable.
Do’s and don’ts in Ramadan
Eating and drinking in public places are forbidden and illegal during this month. That being said, if police catch you eating on the street you might get arrested. Rules are usually not so tight for foreigners and you might be able to get away by apologizing and telling them you didn’t know about the rules. However, it’s best to go by the rules in order to respect the country’s customs. You should also be aware that smoking in public places is also forbidden during Ramadan.
Most of the restaurants are closed during the day and the only food you can get is cold snacks. But you don’t need to worry about eating as all the hotels serve food and even if you are not staying in a hotel you can eat in the restaurant. Also, all the supermarkets are open and you can get whatever you need if you want to cook some food for yourself.
Traveling in Ramadan
You can easily travel around Iran in Ramadan and there’s nothing to worry about. It’s good to know that most of the restaurants on the roads are open during the day. That’s because a traveler who’s away from his home can not fast So… anybody who’s out on the road needs something to eat!
Pros and cons of traveling during Ramadan
If you are a food lover, it might be better for you to consider another time to travel to Iran. Although most of the restaurants and eating places open up after sunset, some good old restaurants, especially those located in old Bazaars, just serve food for the lunch and they’re closed throughout Ramadan. In my recent trip to Tabriz, I missed trying “Dizi” (a traditional Iranian food) in Tabriz’s great Bazaar because of Ramadan as it is served only at noon.
Ramadan is in spring for these years. That being said, you should be OK with tolerating the heat while wearing more clothes than usual and also not being able to drink water when you’re out on the streets.
The good thing about traveling during Ramadan is that most of the people get out in the streets after sunset and so the cities are so lively at night. Of course, you can’t call it a nightlife if there is no alcohol or clubs but anyways… Some eating places and cafes will be open throughout the night.
The other good thing is that Iranians don’t often travel during Ramadan so It’s somehow a low season here and the touristic places will be less crowded. You can also get cheaper accommodation.
What to eat in Ramadan
Muslims have two main meals when they fast. The first one is served right before dawn. You better make yourself full as that is the only thing you’re gonna have for the next 10-15 hours if you’re fasting. They call this course “Sahari” in Iran. The second one is “Eftar” which is served after sunset. It is common to break your fast with dates, tea, and some bread. The main course and some deserts will follow it.
If you’re travelling to Iran during Ramadan don’t miss out trying these special deserts:
Zoolbia Baamieh – You can find this super sweet candies only in Ramadan
Halva – Made of flour, oil, sugar, rosewater and saffron
Shol-e- zard – Made of Rice, sugar, rosewater and saffron
What to do in Ramadan
If you are a kind of traveler who prefers digging into local people’s life instead of hitting museums, then I recommend you to go through special rituals of Ramadan along with Muslims.
Attend an “Eftar” ceremony
If you’re lucky enough to be a guest in a traditional Iranian family, you will love having “Eftar” with them. You might be wondering about how to find such a host. Not that difficult with Iranian hospitality. You can just ask people to join them if they’re holding an “eftar” gathering. Iranians love having guests and showing them the customs. Don’t be shy to ask!
Muslims believe that the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to Muhammad on 19th, 21st or 23rd of Ramadan. That’s why they gather in mosques or in their homes, staying awake the whole night reading the Quran and saying special prayers. You can hit some mosque to see the ceremony.
The Muslims also believe that Ali (The first Imam of Shia Islam) was killed on the 21st of Ramadan and there is also a special grieving ceremony in mosques that night.
During these days (19th to 23rd of Ramadan) some places like shopping centers might be closed. Although only the 21st of Ramadan is a national holiday, the whole period is kind of a holiday. You might want to consider this if you’re setting your dates for traveling to Iran in Ramadan.
The last day of Ramadan is a holy day called “Eyd-e-Fetr”. Muslims should not fast on this day and usually celebrate it by having some guests for lunch. There is a special prayer for this day and a lot of Muslims go to mosques to attend this. If you’re interested, you can go to the main mosques to see this ceremony. Eyd-e-fetr is also a two-day national holiday in Iran.
Qods day’s rally
The last Friday of Ramadan is called Qods day in Iran. On this day some people attend a rally in support of Palestine in the main streets. You might have seen it covered in western media and you might be interested to see it for yourself.
Ramadan may be not really the best time to travel to Iran. However, if you’ve set your plans or you are on a long journey and have to pass Iran at a certain time you can sure find some ways to make the best out of your trip.