After spending several months using Malaysia as my base for traveling around Southeast Asia, I started calling Malaysia, “My home in Asia.” Definitely Malaysia is, for me, such a fascinating country and now it’s one of my favorites. The people are so special, friendly and humble. One of the things I love the most about the country is, not only is it super multicultural (due to the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians) but also that, regardless of the amount of differing religions (especially Muslim (60% of the population), Buddhist and Hindu), everyone in Malaysia respects, supports and celebrates each other daily (especially during big, special holidays and events). I saw this with my own eyes how, during the last day of Chinese New Year (The Chinese Valentine’s Day), everyone came together to celebrate, regardless of their background. I also saw the amount of support given to their Muslims coworkers, at many places, during Ramadan in Malaysia (the Muslim fasting month). But probably the question on your mind is, “What if I am visiting Malaysia during Ramadan? How does Ramadan in Malaysia impact tourists experiences?”
In this post, I would like to talk about my experience traveling during Ramadan in Malaysia. How Ramadan is celebrated, are there any fasting rules you should be aware of, Ramadan Buffets, Ramadan Bazaars, Local food and delicacies, pretty much all you need to know before visiting Malaysia during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and explain to you how at the end of it there’s the beautiful Eid Celebration.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 How is Ramadan celebrated – Malaysia during Ramadan
- 2 Facts and knowledge about Ramadan
- 3 Vocabulary that you should familiarize yourself with
- 4 Traveling During Ramadan – How does Ramadan in Malaysia impact tourists
- 5 Malaysia Eid Celebration
How is Ramadan celebrated – Malaysia during Ramadan
As mentioned above, Ramadan is the Muslim Fasting month and it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims spend the month fasting during the daylight hours, beginning at dawn until sunset time. The first day of the next month, Shawwal, is spent in celebration and is observed as the “Festival of Breaking Fast” or Eid al-Fitr.
Ramadan in Malaysia is beautiful since you’ll see, more than ever, the acts of kindness and support that the communities have for each other. It is definitely not easy for Muslims to fast for a whole month, but it is amazing to see how they act with each other, the spirituality of it all, especially listening to the call to prayers, I just found the entire experience super special.
Ironically, the Ramadan buffets and
bazaars are quite plentiful and amazing. More on that later on this post.
Facts and knowledge about Ramadan
Ramadan is observed in Malaysia, and in many other countries, so it is important to respect others, especially if this is not your faith or belief. It is important to set aside assumptions and preconceived perceptions and, if you are curious about something, you can always ask questions and learn from other cultures and religions.
Please know that, since I know this firsthand because
my cousin is Muslim, children who are in elementary school are not obligated
to fast. They usually start fasting when they’re a little older, and they
tend to start progressively fasting for a few hours to half a day, working
their way up. Usually, they begin fasting fully once they reach puberty. Also,
women who are pregnant, or anyone with health conditions, are not obligated to
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Vocabulary that you should familiarize yourself with
Maghrib time – The fourth out of five prayers of the day
performed by practicing Muslims. They call it the sunset prayer.
time (also called Seehri, Sahari and Suhoor) – A term referring to eating in the morning before
fasting during the day during Ramadan. Sahur is eaten in the early hours of the
time – The evening meal with which
Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at Sunset. They break the fast after the
call to prayer for the evening prayer.
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Traveling During Ramadan – How does Ramadan in Malaysia impact tourists
For tourists, I
would say that things do not change as much since,
for the most part, all of the tourist
attractions are open and working regularly. I do think that things to
watch out for are big holiday dates, like the celebration of Eid,
because buses, trains and
flight tickets get sold out quickly. A lot of people leave big cities,
like Kuala Lumpur,
to go back and celebrate Eid with their families in smaller cities,
So, it is best to check in advance for accommodations, transportation
and more. You can just simply travel during other days or take advantage
that Kuala Lumpur, which is usually quite busy, will be pretty empty.
You should also
watch for changes to restaurant hours; some restaurants change their hours
and remain closed during the day and then open up later in the afternoon to
serve a Ramadan buffet, which you should definitely take advantage off.
You will see
more restaurants and hotels pushing tourists towards special Ramadan buffets for dinner
starting after sunset time. I would suggest for you to try them, instead of the
a la carte menu, not only because Malay food is amazing, but because,
more so, it gives you the opportunity to:
1) Try the local cuisine
2) Eat as much as you want
3) Try special Malay dishes (food, drinks and desserts) that they only prepare during Ramadan in Malaysia
Speaking of Ramadan Buffets, I got to try several ones in Kuala Lumpur: Essence Restaurant inside the hotel Sheraton Imperial KL, the hotel Westin KL was also offering a Ramadan Buffet, and I had a special middle eastern buffet in one of my favorite restaurants, Al-Qasr Restaurant in Cyberjaya. The owners are from Yemen and the food is delish. For those wondering, Cyberjaya is a town adjacent to Putrajaya, part of Selangor in Malaysia. It is on the way to the Kuala Lumpur airport, and I had the opportunity to visit this area while exploring Putrajaya.
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Ramadan Bazaars (Local food markets in Malaysia)
has year-round amazing bazaars, street food and local markets, during the
fasting month, there are special Ramadan Bazaars with the best local Malay
food, delicacies and more. I mean, just come hungry to Malaysia, because there’s so much to eat
at all times! You will always be sated and return to
your hotel room with a full tummy.
I got to experience different Ramadan Bazaars in different areas, especially in Kuala Lumpur. I really loved them so much because, oftentimes, it felt as if I was eating food with, and made by, family. Of course, all of the food was so delicious. I truly enjoyed the experience of visiting Kampung Baru (a traditional Malay village in Kuala Lumpur city center) on a tour with a local named Fuad who was born and raised there. I learned so much about this village and the people. It was fascinating! They happened to have a Ramadan Bazaar starting around 4:00pm and the food is a must try.
I also got to enjoy coffee and Malay delicacies at the traditional Malay home of Fuad (owner of Magical Kampung Baru), while also meeting his family (his amazing wife and his dad). It’s honestly one of my most priceless experiences ever. I am dedicating another post only for Kampung Baru (coming soon).
Malaysia Eid Celebration
This is a huge celebration on the Islamic calendar commemorating the end of Ramadan. It begins by attending the mosque, visiting family and friends, and indulging in tons of food and special Malay delicacies. Lights and decorations are placed around the homes making it a very special day and super festive.
Overall, I totally recommend for you to visit Malaysia. I can bet that you will totally love the food, the people, it’s history, the sites and all the amazing things there are to do. If you do get to visit Malaysia during Ramadan, you will totally enjoy the experience, especially if you are all about trying new foods, learning about other cultural traditions and creating amazing experiences to remember for years to come!
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