Observed by most of the world’s Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month centred around fasting, community and charity. Ramadan has no fixed date; every year,it starts when the new moon is sighted for the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Because of this, it moves about ten days yearly in relation to the Gregorian calendar. Fasting (or sawm in Arabic) involves abstaining from eating, drinking and smoking (and some other activities) between sunrise to sundown for the whole month. The practice is said to help promote self-discipline, spiritual growth and empathy by reminding them of the hardships of the poor. Marking the end of Ramadan is Eid Al Fitr, a three-day celebration.
During Ramadan, you can expect a slower pace of life during the day, are reduced for many businesses. However, after sundown, most places are bustling with life. Friends and families gather to share the breaking of the fast with the meal at sunset known as 'Iftar'. After iftar, you can see children playing games and friends come together in coffee shops to enjoy each other’s company late into the night - up until 'Suhoor' - the last meal before sunrise.
Visitors can enjoy AlUla without having to observe fasting. However, avoiding eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours is respectful. Visitors can enjoy meals during daylight hours by visiting Harrat at Banyan Tree, Tama at Habitas or the Main Restaurant at Shaden Hotel. You can always pick up takeaways from certain kiosks that may be open around the city at different times of the day.
Ensure to explore Old Town and AlJadidah for the iftar experience, as the daily breaking of the fast after sunset is an exceptional moment to immerse in the cultural traditions of Ramadan in AlUla.
And if you are visiting in the first ten days of the month, join in the spirit of the occasion and greet people with “Ramadan Mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan) or “Ramadan Kareem” (Gracious/Generous Ramadan).
While some traditions of Ramadan are shared, like breaking the fast with an odd number of dates, across the Muslim world traditions around Ramadan vary. Many of these traditions bring a sense of nostalgia, where people like to share a special dish or fond memory of how the would celebrate Ramadan growing up. In Saudi Arabia, the iftar tables are usually filled with meat- or cheese-filled sambousa, lentil soup, various main dishes and a generous variety of sweets. Fresh juices are abundant and a sweet drink called vimto bring smiles to those both young and old. A traditional suhoor can be a chicken and rice dish called kabsa or a light meal of dates and yogurt.