May 20, 2020
3 Min. Read

The Meaning Of Ramadan

Everything you need to know about the highlight of the Islamic calender - coming up end-April to end-May.

Often visitors to Zanzibar wonder if Ramadan (also: Ramadhan), the holiest time of the year for Muslims around the world, is the right time to visit the island. Holidaymakers need not worry: While it is true, that the mood during this time somewhat changes to a more quiet and meditative state, everyone’s welcome to join in. In fact, it can be an especially enlightening time and tourists are encouraged to learn more about its meanings and customs.

Can I visit Zanzibar during Ramadan?

So the answer is a clear “Yes”. The pole pole (“slow slow”) archipelago may be even more pole, making it the perfect time to kick back and relax. While respecting the day-time fasting mode, most hotels and restaurants do offer food and beverage throughout, albeit a bit away from the public eye. In the evening they pull out all the stops for iftar, the fast-breaking meal, with opulent local traditional and Arabesque menus. Serena Hotel for instance, a classic 5-star located in the capital city of Stone Town, is known for its wide range of exceptional Ramadan meals. Assistant Manager Ayoub Msoffe says, in 2020 diners can expect “coastal to Arabic, Swahili and Indian to African specialties all of which are delicious and healthy.” Anyone is welcome to join. Remember to ask your selected hotel or resort, too, about their Ramadan offerings when booking.

What is Ramadan?

The ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is considered the holiest time of the year by Muslims, in terms of festivities and spiritual thoughts, and perhaos comparable to Christmas or Eastern time in the Christian faith.

The actuals dates of Ramadan vary annually on the Gregorian calendar and depend on the sighting of the moon. This year Ramadan will occur around 24 April - 23 May. It is believed, that Prophet Mohammed revealed the opening verses of the Holy Quran at this time. The Muslim community marks this pivotal moment with self-restraint and devotion through faith (shahadah), prayer (salah), charity (zakat), fasting (sawm) and pilgrimage (hajj). These are the 5 pillars of Islam. While everyone may have his personal approach to it (see testimonials #My Ramadan) the essence of Ramadan is often defined as “self-restraint, empathy and generosity”, as Omari Hamis, a Zanzibar teacher, puts it. Eid al Fitr (“Festival of Breaking the Fast”) marks the end of the holy month with festivities and presents.

What do people do during Ramadan?

Islamic culture and hospitality are at their peak during the holy month. It is a month of mercy where noble intentions are believed to bring greater reward. Business is expected to slow down as the focus shifts to a more spiritual and family oriented state. After the sun goes down, family and friends come together for the breaking of the fast, or iftar. Iftar begins at dusk and may continue into late hours, with a delectable array of foods to choose from, non-alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea. Suhur is offered just before sunrise, before the day of fasting begins. During the fasting hours no food, no drinks including water and no cigarettes are consumed. “You get used to it”, says guide Aiysha Mohammed, who works her normal hours during Ramadan.

Do’s and Don’ts of Ramadan

Ready to immerse yourself in a new cultural experience? Here some basic rules of general etiquette in public spaces during the time of Ramadan:

DON’T Eat in Public

In respect to those fasting don’t eat or drink in front of them. Most hotels will have sections where one can eat away from those fasting.

DO Be Charitable

Be generous to those less fortunate, donate what you can, food, clothes or money to individuals and charitable organisations.

DON’T Smoke in Public

Smoking in public is not allowed for believers during the holy month, and may also be a good time to quit.

DO Exchange Ramadan Greetings

Use the custom greeting “Ramadan Kareem” when meeting Muslims, and for Eid celebrations, “Eid Mubarak”.

Related Articles

March 31, 2021
3 mins.

Two Fumbas - One Idea

Find out all about new exciting seaside developments just outside Zanzibar city It’s all happening on the Fumba peninsula: Two major real estate developments creating modern living space with holiday flats and permanent family homes near the overcrowded capital. By ANDREA TAPPER Both aspiring seaside communities, started in 2015/16, fascinate locals as well as a […]
read more
May 27, 2024
2 mins.


RICH OR POOR, FAMOUS OR UNKNOWN - THE FACES OF ZANZIBAR The last bookstore TV journalist Farouk Karim owns Zanzibar’s last bookstore. It’s no big literary center - but the smell of paper and calm intellectualism still prevails. Why did he become a bookstore keeper? “I learnt from my father that you can earn a […]
read more
May 20, 2024
2 mins.


The lecturing bar It does not have a sea view, it’s not even near the sea. But it has a stunning 1st-floor outdoor terrace with a full view of Zanzibar’s main historic shopping lane, Kenyatta Road. The new restaurant, bar, and event space of American chef Ashley. Maybe alias Ashley-Marie Weston and Kenyan entrepreneur Eva […]
read more
May 15, 2024
1 min.


Canopy by Hilton, a new boutique hotel by the American hospitality icon, is coming to Fumba Town. It will be the first international hotel on the Fumba peninsula. The brand’s vibe: “positively local”. “We will bring the story of the neighbourhood into the hotel”, said Sam Diab, Hilton development director, in Fumba when unveiling plans […]
read more

Are you looking for a property in Zanzibar?

25 essential questions and answers to buy property in Zanzibar

Whatsapp Us