The secret of travelling during the holy month of Ramadhan is finding the perfect Muslim-friendly destination that feels like home away from home.
Imagine waking up to practice your daytime discipline in Spain or settling down for Iftar with the friendly folks in Indonesia. Wherever your spiritual compass takes you, these destinations will definitely be a unique backdrop to your Ramadhan experience.
Whenever we dream of Morocco, our imagination wanders through the wonderful one of a kind offerings that Marrakech has in store for us. Imagine getting lost in the souk and being overwhelmed by the sights of handmade ceramics, the scents of exotic spices and bottled fragrances and the sounds of vendors enticing you with better bargains.
The Islamic architecture here is second to none. Take a breather from the world’s chaos and immerse yourself in the beauty of the country’s largest Madrasa, Ben Youssef where the interiors are etched with Kufic inscriptions or learn a lesson in history at the Marrakech Museum where modern works of art and Qur’anic inscriptions co-exist together.
#HHWT Tip: Streets are often lit up with colourful lights during Ramadhan and some intersections may give out sweets or dates to enjoy.
Muslim travellers with a boarding pass to Malaysia are often welcomed by a city landscape when visiting the capital of Kuala Lumpur.
Your to-do list should include the architectural immersion of the country’s iconic Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah mosque; sifting the artefacts, ceramics and religious manuscripts at Southeast Asia’s largest Islamic Arts Museum; and stepping into Putrajaya’s Moroccan Pavilion that is greatly inspired by Morocco’s traditional works of art.
Plus, with Malaysia being Southeast Asia’s little Mecca of finger-licking street food, Ramadhan bazaars are aplenty to offer a never-ending and affordable Iftar options from flavourful chicken biryani to grilled ayam percik and mutton kebab.
3. United Arab Emirates
Beyond the promise of modernity that is led by the sky- high Burj Khalifa and Burj Al-Arab, spending Ramadhan in a place like United Arab Emirates will be a rewarding Middle Eastern experience – despite the heavy travel expenses.
Rich in religious and cultural splendours, this Muslim-friendly country is brimming with attractions to keep you busy till Iftar dawns.
Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for the intricate details of the mosaic and glass work before soaking up the local art scene at the Sharjah Arts Museum known for the collection of Arabic and European artists. The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation also offers a quick history lessons of the early years of the Islamic empire.
If you have a European getaway in mind, Spain is one of the many places to visit and the traces of Islamic presence in the country’s long history will be an exciting chapter to your scenic holiday. A definite must-see is the historic mosques that are peppered across Spain such as The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera.
The intricate detailing of Renaissance, Baroque, Islamic and Moorish architectures in the Great Mosque of Cordoba will be a historical highlight of the trip. Then, build up the Islamic significance with a detour to Calahorra Tower, a national historical monument of Islamic background; and the royal palace Alcazar of Seville that was constructured by the Moorish Muslim kings.
Plus, you can make your way to the old Arab Quarter of Albayzin to explore the charming neighbourhood and chat up with the locals. If you happen to land in Madrid, add these halal eateries into your list of Iftar options.
Credit: Bert Kaufmann
Similar to its Southeast Asian neighbours, Singapore has cemented itself as a Muslim-friendly destination and one of the best countries to go during Ramadhan.
In a modern city like Singapore, travellers will have adequate access to halal local delights and plenty of Muslim-friendly sites to visit. Step away from the city’s hustle and bustle and retreat at the country’s oldest mosque, the Sultan Mosque that is beautifully detailed with minarets and shiny golden domes as an homage to its Persian, Turkish and Moorish architectures.
A walk down the Arab Street will also add a tinge of Middle Eastern flavour to your Singapore experience where you can score traditional carpets, a variety of Islamic books and silk shops for beautiful fabrics.
Whenever you plan for a take out for Iftar, swing by the Ramadhan bazaar for an array of delicious bites from the classic Ramly burger and chicken kebab to the instagrammable flavoured churros. Take a look at our food report here.
When in Southeast Asia, it’s natural to see that Indonesia jumps out from our list of Muslim-friendly destinations. With the world’s largest Muslim population dotted around the archipelago, travellers will feel right at home when in Indonesia.
As vibrant as their Southeast Asian neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, the promise of various attractions to fill your day itinerary and convenient access to halal local cuisines will benefit your holiday. Imagine rising early for Sahur with a traditional breakfast of nasi kunyit Indonesia with a side of omelette, grated coconut and crunchy anchovies.
Then, explore the sights and sounds of Indonesia by seeking a peaceful retreat at Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque that is Southeast Asia’s largest or the 15th-century Great Mosque of Demak that is said to be the country’s oldest and packed with Islamic history. Remember to head over the Ramadhan bazaar for local Iftar appetisers in the likes of kolak candil (sweetened and stewed glutinous rice balls), bubur sumsum (rice flour and coconut milk pudding) and a variety of gorengan (deep fried snacks).
If you have space for one more destination with historical Islamic significance, it’s time to book a flight to Turkey.
The country’s Big Four is a must-visit and enough to fill the void in your travel itinerary. Immerse yourself in the architectural splendours of Ayasofya Museum, Topkapi Palace and Sultan Ahmed Mosque as well as practice your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar.
If you want to get to know the locals better, head over to the one of the country’s largest Spice Bazaar that is best known for the abundance of Turkish delights and supply of dried and preserved fruits; exotic herbs and spices; as well as other local bites.
#HHWT Tip: During the month of Ramadhan, keep a look out for Iftar tents that gives away affordable or free food
Wherever our travel guide takes you during the holy month, arm yourself with a few savvy smartphone apps to keep your Iftar and Sahur times in check, such as Ramadhan Times (free; iOS) and Salaat Time (free; Android).