It seems you’re thinking about a trip to Morocco! Maybe you’re still in the exploration stage, or perhaps you’ve already planned out the details. You’re intrigued by the storied cities, desert landscapes, coastal towns, and mountain villages. You can almost see the mud brick kasbahs, taste the tagine, and smell the turmeric. Morocco, here you come!
Only one problem: you just discovered that your planned travel dates fall during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. Morocco’s population is over 99% Muslim. What does this mean for your trip? Can visitors still travel in Morocco during Ramadan? Should you try to reschedule? If it’s the only time you have available, should you go anyway?
I wondered all of these things when planning a recent 1.5-month trip traveling through Morocco by a combination of bicycle and bus. We arrived literally the day after Ramadan began, so our entire first month was impacted by it. We got used to it, but when Eid al-Fitr finally arrived it felt wonderfully novel to eat ice cream in the street and order lunch from a restaurant! In our final two weeks in Morocco we experienced “normal” life, so we saw both sides and the contrast between them.
Ultimately I’m glad we decided to visit Morocco during Ramadan, and it worked out fine. We didn’t have any other time available, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this opportunity to experience the country. Thoughtful travel always has an element of challenge and cultural adaptation, and Ramadan amped up that aspect of the trip for us.
Should you travel to Morocco during Ramadan? I think it depends on what kind of trip you have planned and your goals for the visit. Read on to learn how Ramadan may impact your trip to Morocco.
Ramadan in Morocco
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, considered a holy month by Muslims around the world. During this month Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset, refraining from eating, drinking (including water!), and other “physical needs” including smoking and sex. Instead they focus on spiritual reflection, prayer, compassion for the less fortunate, and spending time with family and friends.
The month of fasting begins with the sighting of the crescent moon (hilal) – there is literally a moon sighting committee in Saudi Arabia for this purpose – and continues for the duration of the lunar month, either 29 or 30 days depending on the details of the moon sighting.
When is Ramadan in Morocco
Ramadan is observed at the same time by Muslims all around the world, including in Morocco. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the solar Gregorian calendar, so the dates of Ramadan shift earlier by 11 days every year. In 2023 Ramadan occurred from March 22 to April 20.
Below are predicted Ramadan dates for the next several years. Keep in mind that these dates are approximate and the official dates will vary by one or two days depending on precisely when the crescent moon is first observed. (Source: ING)
- 2024: March 11 through April 9
- 2025: March 1 – 29
- 2026: February 18 – March 19
- 2027: February 8 – March 8
If you’re thinking about visiting Morocco during Ramadan in future years, you’ll want to understand how the holy month is likely to impact your travel experience. Read on!
How Moroccans Observe Ramadan
In Morocco, as in other Muslim-majority countries, Ramadan is a special time filled with rich traditions. Just before dawn a pre-fast meal called “Suhur” is taken, followed by starting the day or perhaps taking a nap. Each evening the fast is broken at sunset with the “Iftar” meal, which often starts with dates and milk or water, followed by a rich feast of traditional Moroccan dishes like Harira (a tomato and lentil soup), tajines, and sweets like Chebakia.
Evenings are filled with prayer, and special night prayers called “Tarawih” are performed in mosques. Moroccan cities come alive with night markets offering food, clothing, and other items for the festivities of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Moroccan television even airs special Ramadan programming, including series, shows, and spiritual programs.
Ramadan is a special time for family and community in the Muslim faith. The shared experience of fasting and breaking the fast together strengthens family bonds and community ties. Cooking traditional recipes becomes a cherished familial ritual. The act of giving, central to Ramadan, often involves the whole family offering charity to those less fortunate. At the end of the month, family and friends celebrate Eid al-Fitr together with yet more shared meals, prayers, charity, and gift giving.
Do all Moroccans observe Ramadan?
This is a very personal matter. It’s a legal requirement of all Muslim Moroccans, who can be fined if caught drinking or eating in public. We heard a few stories of folks sneaking water during the day, and given the scorching hot temperatures during our visit I personally think this should be excused.
Islam allows for standard exceptions in cases where fasting would be a hardship, traditionally: children; elderly; women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating; sick or weak people; and people who are traveling. These people can make up their obligation by fasting later, or if that’s not possible, by donating food to someone in need.
One of our guesthouse owners confided that he doesn’t observe Ramadan except publicly as required, as he believes people can “be good” in a moral sense without following strict religious traditions. A few others told us they appreciated the health benefits of fasting, as if to emphasize the secular benefits of the religious tradition (possibly for the benefit of our secular American sensibilities). On the whole though, it seemed the vast majority of Moroccans do observe Ramadan and are proud of the role it plays in their religious devotion and community culture.
How Ramadan Impacts Travel in Morocco
You’re probably here to find out whether it’s a good idea to visit Morocco during Ramadan. I definitely wondered the same thing when we planned our trip, but couldn’t find much information about the actual experience. I hope these observations will give you a sense of what to expect so you can make your decision.
Tourist Services Continue
If your trip to Morocco is mostly about organized tours and activities, you can expect it to continue as usual. Obviously it’s good to verify essential parts of your itinerary in advance, as smaller operations could potentially reduce their offerings during Ramadan. But we generally noticed that guides, drivers, and instructors were working as usual.
Yes, your guide or driver will likely be fasting. And yes, they are used to tourists eating and drinking in front of them. Though it may feel awkward at first, they will almost certainly encourage you to go ahead. We noticed that many Moroccans liked to talk about Ramadan and what it means to them, so perhaps this is an opening for a good conversation.
We took a week of kitesurfing lessons in Dakhla (technically Western Sahara, but regarded by some as part of Morocco) during Ramadan, and our instructor was fasting. We’ll never know if he might have been a bit more cheerful and patient at other times of the year, but he did his job and we were happy.
Tourist Attractions May Have Shorter Hours
Major tourist attractions in Morocco — museums, palaces, ruins, etc — generally stay open during Ramadan but may have reduced hours. In Marrakech we noticed many attractions closing two hours earlier than usual during Ramadan. You won’t find this change in Google Maps, and it caught us and many others off-guard until we figured out the pattern. Start your exploring early and call to ask about hours if in doubt.
Hotels Are Open, But May Be Quiet
In hotels that cater to tourists you may not notice much difference during Ramadan; everything will operate as usual. Hotels focused on a local clientele may be quieter than usual during Ramadan; in a number of cases it seemed we were the only people there! Though this was mostly not a problem, the staff seemed a bit less available than usual. We waited a couple hours to check out one morning when the person we needed was apparently enjoying a Ramadan-inspired morning nap.
Many (But Not All) Restaurants are Closed Until Sunset
In the most touristy areas of Morocco, restaurants stay open during Ramadan. We saw vendors selling street food and sweets in the souks of Marrakech, and restaurants along the beach in Agadir were open as usual. Guesthouses with kitchens still serve their guests during daylight, though you’ll probably need to wait for the staff to break their fast before they make your dinner. If your activities focus mostly on tourist hotspots, you won’t go hungry.
Outside of the most touristy areas, restaurants will be closed until sunset during Ramadan in Morocco. Restaurants in small towns and villages, cafes at bus stations, even the coffee shops in modern downtown Agadir were always closed before sunset, or at best only serving take-away pastries. If you’re out exploring less touristy areas, prepare to rely on grocery store snacks or food you prepare at your lodging to get you through to dinnertime.
Come sunset we could usually find a restaurant serving iftar, the traditional meal that breaks the fast, and were allowed to join in. This can actually be a benefit in larger towns where some restaurants offer a festive fixed menu of traditional iftar food.
A bit later, after people are finished enjoying iftar with their families, many restaurants reopen from around 9pm until late. Moroccans tend to eat dinner late anyway, but especially during Ramadan we felt like it was almost bedtime before the dinner scene really got going. We could always find something, but our meals were less predictable and not as simple as just walking into any restaurant and looking at a menu.
Grocery and Convenience Stores are Open
Though restaurants may be closed during daylight hours, you can always find food at grocery stores and convenience stores. In big cities this means modern grocery stores full of options, while in a village you might find a single corner shop with some yogurt drinks and other snacks. You can also buy bottled water, fresh produce, bread, and many other items at street stalls which stay open during Ramadan.
The catch is that shop hours may be reduced, especially in small towns. Shops may open later in the day, close during the iftar meal around sunset, and reopen after around 9pm. Another challenge is that after you buy your snacks you’ll want to find a discreet place to eat them.
Tourists Should Be Discreet When Eating in Public
As a non-Muslim tourist, you won’t be expected to fast. Moroccans know you are eating and drinking and won’t begrudge you for it. But basic courtesy says it’s rude to eat and drink in front of people who cannot. As a tourist you should be discreet about eating and drinking in public between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan in Morocco.
Of course you may need a snack or a sip of water while you’re out exploring. This is totally fine, just be polite about it. If you’re in a touristy area where restaurants are open, it’s no problem. But if no one around you is eating or drinking, find a quiet spot and make an effort to be discreet. This is more a matter of manners than rules, so just try your best. The thing to avoid is buying a big juicy sandwich or delicious ice cream in a touristy area and then wandering into a less touristy area while blatantly enjoying your treat.
Early in our trip on a hot day in Agadir, we bought milkshakes from a shop by the beach. There were tourists everywhere and restaurants were open, but we made the mistake of carrying our milkshakes up the hill away from the tourist area. Almost immediately a pair of young men, apparently hungry, shouted some not-so-friendly curse words at us. Realizing our mistake, we scurried back to the touristy beach with our tails between our legs. I felt bad for being rude, and I also felt their response was not aligned with the spirit of Ramadan and probably unusual. Most Moroccans will be more understanding, but we did make a mistake and their reaction served as an important reminder. We never made the same mistake again!
Transportation Still Runs
Moroccans may be fasting, but they still need to get around. Transport generally runs as usual. We took the CTM bus several times during Ramadan in Morocco, including a 20-hour journey from Dakhla to Agadir. It was a minor inconvenience that cafes at the bus stations were closed and we had to be sneaky about snacking, but it was hard to complain knowing our fellow passengers were fasting. We really enjoyed the experience of stopping for Iftar at a roadside cafe and sharing the celebratory spirit of our fellow passengers breaking the fast.
I had read that travelers are exempt from fasting according to Islamic tradition, so I was actually surprised to find people fasting on the bus ride. I don’t know if this is typical or not, but we didn’t see anyone eating or drinking on the bus or at bus stations during Ramadan.
Streets Are Quiet, But Come Alive Later
This is one of the harder factors to quantify, but it can make a difference in the vibe of your travel experience. During Ramadan the late afternoons can feel a bit gloomy in Moroccan towns. The streets are quiet, some shops are closed, and there can be a sense of lethargy as people sit around counting the minutes until they get to break the fast. This isn’t as true in the major cities like Marrakesh and Fes, but we definitely noticed it in smaller towns.
After Iftar, however, the streets come alive as families visit, do their shopping, and go to the mosque for evening prayers. If you’re a night owl and like exploring after dark, you may enjoy Ramadan in Morocco. When the holy month falls during the hotter season it’s especially nice to go wandering as the relentless heat of daylight finally eases.
People May be Cranky
I read about this in advance and was amused to find that it’s actually true: you’re more likely to witness “hangry” outbursts in Morocco when visiting during Ramadan. We saw a handful of minor incidents including a road rage rant between our bus driver and a taxi driver. Of course these things can happen any time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if an entire country of hungry people increases the likelihood. If you travel in Morocco during Ramadan I’d suggest practicing empathy for the people around you who may not be feeling at their best.
After Ramadan: Eid al-Fitr
After a month of fasting, Moroccans and other Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr. This three day festival is a time for prayers, celebratory meals, charity, spending time with family and friends, and gifting new clothing and other treats to children. Because the exact date depends on the sighting of the moon, it’s not unusual for the date to be announced just a few days before the festivities begin. When we were in Morocco even the locals were waiting to hear exactly which day would mark the end of their fasting.
We had the pleasure of experiencing Eid al-Fitr in Zagora, and it was indeed a joyous time. In the early evening we wandered around town, soaking up the vibrancy of so many people out strolling the streets in their fancy clothes. The mood was lively and bustling compared to the quieter weeks of Ramadan. People were in a great mood, smiling and greeting us for no particular reason. We ate a meal before sunset at a small local restaurant and sipped yogurt drinks on the sidewalk, a first since arriving in Morocco at the very beginning of Ramadan.
If you’re wondering about traveling in Morocco during Eid al-Fitr, you first need to know that there are two “Eids” in the Islamic calendar; “Eid” just means “celebration” or “festival” in Arabic. So if you see people talking about traveling during Eid, you need to know which one they’re talking about. Eid al-Fitr is actually the smaller of the two holidays, and we didn’t find it particularly disruptive to our travels. Some smaller shops were closed at unusual hours during the first couple days of the holiday, but most things seemed to go on as usual.
Eid al-Adha, the other “eid,” happens about 40 days after Eid al-Fitr. It’s a longer and more significant holiday involving family celebrations and sacrificing of sheep. When you hear that people often travel to be with their families during Eid and thus all the shops and attractions are closed, they are probably referring to Eid al-Adha. During this celebration you may find it hard to travel since the country is focused on their holiday. I imagine it’s like trying to travel during Christmas in America when you don’t actually celebrate Christmas.
Should you visit Morocco during Ramadan?
After reading all of this, perhaps you’re still wondering whether to visit Morocco during Ramadan. I don’t think there’s one right answer for everyone. The best decision for you depends on the type of travel you want to do and what you hope to get out of it. Here are a few cases that come to mind:
Short trip to tourist hot spots: If you’re only spending time in big cities and at touristy attractions, and you don’t particularly care about getting off the beaten path, Ramadan might not impact your trip very much.
Mostly guided and organized activities: If you’re on a guided trip or all-inclusive stay where your meals and logistics are handled for you, the impacts of Ramadan may not be as noticeable to you. If possible, talk to your guide about spending some time exploring in the evenings when the streets are more lively.
Self-contained trip by car, van, or bicycle: If you’re on a long independent trip through less touristy areas, especially if equipped to cook for yourself, you might find the cultural aspects of Ramadan interesting. It will definitely change your experience and will sometimes be inconvenient, but if you’re this type of traveler you can probably handle it. Ideally plan your trip to include Eid al-Fitr so you can experience the contrasts between Ramadan, Eid, and the more typical rhythm of Moroccan life.
Backpacking: If you plan to travel off the beaten path by public transport, Ramadan could be a bit inconvenient. Smaller towns will have a quieter vibe during the day and you might struggle to find satisfying meals. You might consider buying a camping stove (available in hardware stores) so you can cook your own meals on occasion.
For most travelers, if you have the choice between visiting Morocco during Ramadan and at another time, I would lean toward not going during Ramadan. This is especially true if it’ll be your first time in Morocco or this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip for you. But if you don’t have much choice in the timing and you really want to experience Morocco, I think you can still have a great trip during Ramadan.
Some people advocate for visiting Morocco during Ramadan because of the “cultural experience,” making it sound like you’ll certainly be invited to share in an iftar meal or an Eid celebration. I want to note that this is hit or miss. Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are family-focused holidays for Moroccans, and we visitors cannot expect to be welcomed into their celebrations. Sure, if you are out exploring off the beaten path and happen to connect with a local, you may find yourself with a genuine moment of cultural exchange. But as a tourist, most likely you’ll be watching the festivities from the outside, which is perfectly fine too.
Our experience of Ramadan in Morocco was mixed, but ultimately I’m glad we went. At first we didn’t mind the inconvenience of restaurants being closed since we were traveling with a camping stove. As the weeks wore on, we did sometimes feel frustrated by the challenge of finding a satisfying meal. It was a minor inconvenience to avoid eating and drinking in public, especially when we rolled into a town hungry and thirsty and had to find an isolated spot to enjoy our snacks and cold drinks. When Ramadan finally ended and we got used to eating and drinking in public (which took a few days) our travel experience felt a bit more relaxed.
On the other hand, it was interesting to learn more about such a significant part of Islamic life around the world. I now have an even greater respect for Muslims, their religious devotion and strong sense of community. We enjoyed experiences that wouldn’t have happened at other times of the year: talking with Moroccans about their experience of fasting and their feelings about religion, sharing a celebratory iftar meal with fellow passengers on a long bus ride, and seeing the cheerfulness of Eid al-Fitr on display in the streets of Zagora. It’s hard to know how the trip would have felt at a different time, but I do feel like we experienced what we came for in Morocco both in spite of, and because of, Ramadan.
More Travel Resources
If you enjoy adventurous travel, you might also like these:
- Egypt: Exploring Luxor’s West Bank by Bicycle
- West Africa Travel Essentials
- Checklist: Must-Do’s to Prep for an International Trip
Or visit the travel section for lots more.
Travel resources in your inbox?
There’s more where this came from! If you’re into adventurous, thoughtful, off-the-beaten-track travel, sign up here for occasional emails with my best tips and inspiration.
Share the Adventure
If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing so more people can benefit from it: