It happened that we have visited Zanzibar during Ramadan – a holy month for Muslims worldwide. Islam came to Zanzibar during 8th century and is a religion for 99% of island’s population, so Ramadan is strictly observed by locals.
You can find out whether your visit falls on Ramadan or not using this calendar. If you’re coming during Ramadan, there are some etiquette points and precautions you should keep in mind:
No eating and drinking in public
As a courtesy to locals, avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public during the daytime. Some restaurants will be closed during the whole month, some will operate only after dark. Still, there are plenty of places open during daytime, especially at the hotels, in touristy ares and around Stone Town.
As with any muslim country, dressing modestly at all times is a good idea. During Ramadan this is especially important. This does not apply to hotels and beach areas though, so feel free to go swimming in your usual beachwear.
By dressing modestly I suggest at least having your knees and shoulders covered.
No kissing and otherwise displaying affection publicly
Same as the point above, it is a good idea to respect the local culture and behave appropriately. It is not acceptable to kiss each other and otherwise display your affection publicly.
Enjoy breaking the fast nightly and the Eid al-Fitr
Inhaling the atmosphere of Stone Town after dusk felt quite special to me. Locals break their fast every night and enjoy their meals together. You’ll see unity and joy amongst people and it is truly fascinating.
The Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Holy Month, is a fascinating time. It brings celebration to the streets of Stone Town and feasts all around the island, so make sure not to miss this culinary wonder if you’re around.
Generally, Zanzibar during Ramadan is perfectly enjoyable and it should not be an impediment for your visit. Following those few simple rules above shouldn’t cause you too much discomfort but will show a great deal of respect to the local traditions.
Check out the Full Guide to Zanzibar