Here are some of the festivals that are widely celebrated in North Africa and the Middle East.
The first celebration of the year is Moulid Al-Nabi, the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. This public holiday shouldn’t affect your travels too much, although some shops and offices may be closed. The extent of celebration varies from country to country.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, meaning that Muslims across the world refrain from all food, drink, and tobacco during daylight hours. The fast is finally broken at sunset, with families and friends often coming together to celebrate with a meal known as Iftar. On occasion it can be the trigger for some lavish parties and outdoor dinners. It is worth checking the local newspapers to find out where these are taking place. As a tourist, local traditions should be respected, and eating, drinking or smoking in public should be avoided during the day. However, this will not necessarily always affect your itinerary and may even add to your experience. It is also worth mentioning that some cities or countries can be less strict in their observance of the fast than others - do check with your specialist.
Eid Al-Fitr is a public holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, and can last for several days. Again, many people like to spend this time with their friends and families so many offices, shops and businesses are closed over this holiday. It is a good idea to be aware of the implications that traveling over Eid Al-Fitr can have, although we would not necessarily advise against traveling at this time.
Eid Al-Adha is the second Eid in the Islamic calendar and literally means ‘festival of sacrifice.’ This relates to the story of when Ibrahim proved his devotion to Allah through his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Ismail. God stopped the sacrifice and replaced Ismail with a sheep. Today, families will celebrate by slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat with their family, friends and the local community, ensuring that poorer families receive a portion too. Many people still travel to the Middle East during this Eid, but you should be aware that many shops and offices will be closed as it can last for three or four days, and you may see a couple of gory scenes if you are in the markets on the first day, when the animals are slaughtered!