Are you exploring Iran during the time of Ramadan? You are very lucky to experience a really special period of the year. Here are few practical notes on what you may expect and some tips how to enjoy it.
When me and my friend booked flights to Iran few months before our trip, we hadn’t realised that the second half of our trip would be overlapping with the first week of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting in Islam, when no drinks or food are consumed from dawn to dusk (read more about Ramadan customs in Iran).
Not that I was very much concerned about it. I have dry fasted (no food and drink) for quite a few times in my life and I have described my experience of fasting in in Afghanistan in this article. Yet, traveling is quite an energy intense activity and I wouldn’t recommend anyone giving up on food and especially water, altogether.
Yet, because Iran is officially an Islamic Republic, the month of Ramadan is upheld by the majority of the society, and this will have a direct impact on your experience as a tourist. However, there are few useful tips you may consider to keep yourself going and having an enjoyable time during this special period:
1- Adjust your daytime routine (sleep more, chill more)
I know that you want to make the most out of your stay in Iran and you want to go sightseeing all day long. But soon you will realise that around midday, when it gets really hot, you are the only soul on the street, and you have nowhere to hide (because all the shops, tea-houses and bazaars are closed, to reopen only after 5 PM. Thus, if you don’t want to feel drained, either leave the hotel a bit later than you normally would, or wake up earlier, do some stuff until the noon and then follow the local wisdom and just chill out again for a few hours. In the evening, the town will get back to life, the shops and restaurants will reopen and you will be ready to explore it by night.
2. Forget about restaurant opening hours
During Ramadan they will usually open and start serving food after the sunset (in 2017 it was around 8.30 PM). However the view of Iranians breaking their fast and celebrating the supper is something worth waiting for. Having noted that, cafes and restaurants in hotels can be a life-saver for a quick afternoon tea or ‘out of hours’ meal. For example in Isfahan, I had a lovely milkshake and ice-cream at Hotel Abbasi. Usually hotel restaurants are hidden away from the public eye and thus are open during the Ramadan, serving tourists and locals alike.
3- If you need to drink outdoors, be discreet
Your guidebook is telling you that you should avoid drinking in public because it will get you in the trouble? Don’t stress about it, just don’t do it ostensibly, in front of others. It may be even easier as the streets of the city get deserted during the Ramadan. Find a little corner, have a walk in a park and take a sip of your soft drink when no one sees you. At the same time, be respectful and don’t gulp down your water while walking along the people.
4. Take it on your stride!
Do not stress out, after all, you may treat it as a sophisticated diet. Consider Ramadan as a special experience; the time to slow down, to reflect and meditate more on the sense of life. Visit a mosque, take a sit on the carpet in there, close your eyes, hear the worshipers doing their daily prayer and just embrace the atmosphere: peaceful, but charged with praise.
Just before the sunset, observe how streets get busy, with people rushing to buy last leaves of lavash bread for the evening feast. Listen to the muezzin calling out from minaret to mark the time of the evening prayer. And after the sunset, the local parks and squares will soon become full of Iranian families enjoying picnicking (their favourite pastime) and breaking fast with dates, delicious Iranian meals and fruits. Hear the chai (tea) being poured into the cups, see the children playing around and adults chatting with each other and laughing. Just be there.
Please comment and share your experience with us.