With my Turkish heritage, I have been a few times to Turkey during Ramadan, and so traveling during the fasting month is actually pretty normal for me. I can’t think of any reason not to travel during this time.
I remember that I loved to join my grandma for her prayers as I was little. She would unroll her prayer rug and start to whisper silently. First, she would pray with open hands, then wipe over her face three times, and then go down on her knees to touch the ground with her forehead.
I had no idea what that meant… “praying”. But I wanted to be with my grandma and so I copied everything she did, just without the prayer rug.
Back home, my mother also prayed and read out of the Quran, only without whispering and without a prayer rug. That was not as interesting as watching my grandma for me, but still, I always loved to watch her.
Even though my mother is a believer, I was never forced to choose a religion, which I am very thankful for.
I am not a Muslim and do not join any religion. But I understand that religion plays a big role for many people and is an important part of their lives.
And what hasn’t changed since my childhood is that I still love to watch. I am interested in what is going on. And what moves people. And what religion can all do and effect.
But what is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the fasting time where you don’t eat or drink from sunset to sunrise. While working as usual and continuing with other normal daily routines, you abstain from food and fluids. This way, it is said, that you cleanse your body and learn that nourishment is a gift.
Older people, sick people, pregnant women, and children are an exception and don’t have to fast.
Menstruating women, as well as travellers and sick people are required to replace their missed days and must fast afterwards.
Ramadan lasts about a month. Each year the beginning and end of Ramadan are at different times than the year prior because it is in accordance to the moon calendar.
Can you travel during Ramadan?
Of course, Ramadan is more present in some areas or countries then in others.
But here in Kuala Lumpur, you can find food. You can eat as usual and don’t have to be afraid that you won’t find anything.
In the big shopping malls, you don’t even realize that it is Ramadan – other than the green and yellow decorated stands with special offers during this time.
The food courts were always full, and the offer is huge. In some countries the restaurant owners put curtains in their windows so that you don’t see the food from outside. But we haven’t seen that here.
Out of respect we didn’t eat or drink in public.
And, since all the stores are open, you can always go and buy food.
We never experienced a single negative behaviour towards us as foreigners. Rather, we only witnessed friendly faces and people who are proud to show us their culture.
So YES! We say that you can definitively travel during Ramadan!
Joining the breaking of the fast
One weekend we decided to witness the breaking of the fast and had a very special experience.
On a Saturday we went and visited the Masjid Jamek.
We love to visit mosques and temples and churches everywhere we travel. We find that the architecture and history behind these places is fascinating.
As it started to rain, we waited under cover at the mosque and then walked to the Merdeka Square. There are many tents there during Ramadan where they sell clothes and food.
On the street they laid out carpets in long rows and we saw the believers sitting with food in front of them and waiting. Waiting for the sunset, so they can break their fast.
While we were observing all of this, we noticed a man waving and waving. And we realized that he was waving to us!
We walked over to him and he invited us to sit down with them and to participate in the breaking of the fast.
Alisha, from the Malaysia Tourism who we also met, told us that they like to invite tourists to show them the process of the fast breaking.
We were very happy to be invited and sat down thankfully. We had so many questions in our heads but withheld them knowing that they hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for the entire day.
Then a prayer came over loudspeakers, and everyone started eating.
We saw that some were also praying, holding up their hands and wiping over their faces, just like my grandma did (and still does).
A lunchbox and tea were laying in front of us. Inside the lunchbox we found dates, which are used to break your fast, so we ate them first.
While we joined them, we were interviewed, many pictures were taken, and they asked us if we could tell others about Malaysia.
In our eyes, Malaysia is always worth a trip: it was very special to be here during Ramadan.
The experience of different cultures
For us, this was a unique experience. The atmosphere was indescribable. The hospitality was unforgettable.
Even though I have been in Turkey during Ramadan, I was just a child and so I never realized what it was about.
We know that there are some places where it is hard (or impossible) to find food. But in bigger cities, traveling during Ramadan is not any more difficult than other times of the year. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In the evening, when the fast is broken, you will see celebrations and will be rewarded with one more incredible experience.
Because traveling means so much more than just traveling to us. It allows to learn new cultures. In a few days the fasting month will be over, and unfortunately, we won’t be in Kuala Lumpur for the end. But maybe we will be lucky to attend this big event somewhere in the Cameron Highlands.