Today’s guest post is by Danial of Dan On The Road.
Ramadan is a holy month where Muslims would fast from sunrise to sundown for 30 days, accompanied by intense religious activities. Ramadan is swiftly followed by Eid al-Fitr, also known as Eid, as a day of celebration after a full month of fasting.
Every Muslim country around the world observes Ramadan & Eid but it is celebrated differently from one nation to another after assimilating into local customs and culture. Malaysia is no exception and here’s why you should make Malaysia a travel destination during Ramadan & Eid.
It’s a Great Way to Learn About Islam…
You’ve read countless articles and watched many Buzzfeed videos about Ramadan so why not experience it for yourself? Ramadan is a time for togetherness as believers are encouraged to hold nightly congregation prayers, donate to charity and practice utmost moderation in everything they do. Muslims diligently practice these teachings throughout the whole month, centering their activities around the mosque. There’s no harm for you to drop by a local mosque if you chance upon one. Locals will be more than happy to have a chat with you and answer any questions on Ramadan and Islam in general.
…Without Putting A Burden on Yourself
Although more than 70% of the population fasts, business is open as usual and there is no blanket ban on all food outlets unlike in some Muslim countries. This is due to the multicultural make-up of Malaysia especially in urban centres that host significant Chinese and Indian populations. Non-Muslim travelers would have no trouble in finding food as eateries are open throughout the day and Muslims here are fine with non-Muslims eating out. However, most food joints in predominantly Malay rural areas are usually closed during the day since their customers are mainly Muslims.
Ramadan is the Best Time to Sample Malaysia’s Street Food…
Street food is synonymous to Malaysia and Ramadan is the best time to sample these delicacies, served in rows of pop-up stalls found in almost every neighborhood. Street bazaars are only seen during Ramadan and they operate every evening starting from 3:00 p.m. until the break of fast around 7:30 p.m. Ramadan bazaar is the true definition of sensory overload. You will be hard pressed to choose which food to sample as everything looks tantalizing – the folks at TimeOut KL and Have Halal, Will Travel can help you with some essential dishes. And when in doubt, always go for the stall with the longest line.
…and Try On Colorful Traditional Malay Garments
Eid in Malaysia is a colorful affair and the colors that add life into this day of celebration comes in the form of traditional costumes – “Baju Melayu” for men and “Baju Kurung” for women. These dresses are worn on the first couple of days of Eid as a symbol of renewal, starting afresh with a clean slate physically and spiritually. Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (TAR) in Kuala Lumpur is the perfect place to shop for Baju Melayu and Baju Kurung. This mile-long stretch is the city’s garment district where shops display endless aisles of fabric and costumes. Jalan TAR gets especially busy on the last week of Ramadan and that’s the best time for you to score a nice piece at a bargain.
Experience the “Balik Kampung” Phenomenon…
The migration of Malays from small towns and villages into the Kuala Lumpur has created the “balik kampung” phenomenon where they will return back to their hometowns in droves a few days before Eid. The patriarchal home is the nest for all family members to gather and catch-up with each other. The atmosphere during the eve of Eid and on the day itself is different depending on where you are. If you’re in Kuala Lumpur, expect to see an exodus as half of the population disappears and if you’re in other parts of Malaysia, you will notice an increase in the number cars on the road. Just make sure you don’t get stuck in massive traffic jams on the highway!
…and Join the Celebration on Eid!
While Ramadan is associated with empathy and steadfastness, Eid’s central tenets are bonding and forgiveness. After the morning community prayers, family members would seek forgiveness from each other for any wrongdoings they did throughout the past year. They would then spend the next couple of days visiting close relatives.
One truly Malaysian tradition is the hosting of “open houses” usually done during weekends after the first week of Eid. Friends and family members are invited to dine-in buffet style at the hosts’ house and be treated with an array of cuisines like lemang, rendang, ketupat and dodol commonly found during this festive month. These are snapshots on Ramadan and Eid in Malaysia as there are many more cultural nuances that shape Muslims’ observances of these two significant months in the Islamic calender. So, if you happen to visit Malaysia during period, jump into it with an open mind and an empty stomach. Don’t be shy to make friends with locals and you might even get invited to an open house!
When he’s not busy putting his son to sleep, Danial dreams of hitting the road and exploring anything he hasn’t seen or tasted yet. From hiking lush national parks to indulging in endless street food, this Malaysian is up for all kinds of adventures. Read about his travel and food musings at Dan On The Road and connect with him via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.