The Month of Ramadhan is one of the major pillars of Islam and its timing is not fixed in terms of the Gregorian calendar. This year the Holy Month of Ramadhan is expected to start from 26th or 27th May 2017 for the period of 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the moon followed by the festival of Eid, which marks the end of the month of fasting.
Observance of the Month of Ramadhan requires Muslims (over 95% of the Zanzibar population) to fast from sunrise to sunset. During this month of fasting, Muslims are required to abstain from their basic desires such as eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. Whilst these prohibitions do not apply to foreign visitors, it is generally considered impolite to eat, drink or smoke in public during the day throughout the Month of Ramadhan, and we recommend that visitors exercise discretion. Public displays of affection such as kissing are considered offensive and offend the traditional and cultural norms of Zanzibar Muslims.
There are no public holidays during the Holy Month of Ramadhan (directly related to Ramadhan). At the end of the month of fasting (expected to be 25th or 26th June), there is the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr which is a public (bank) holiday. There is also a holiday in Tanzania/Zanzibar on 7th July called Saba Saba Day).
During the Month of Ramadhan, business hours for many companies are revised, and services such as public transportation, restaurants and shopping can be affected. Pre-booked transfers will not be affected. The business hours of our Zanzibar affiliate Fisherman Tours during this month are from 0800 hrs to 1500 hrs Monday to Friday and from 0800 hrs to 1300 hrs on Saturdays. While Muslims are breaking their fast from 1815 to 1915 hrs Stone Town is virtually deserted. During this period we recommend that clients do not walk around the stone town alone or in a small group for their safety and well-being.
The Commission for Tourism (Zanzibar) has also instructed all restaurants which are not part of any hotels to remain closed and not offer services during the daytime and that all hotels/resorts to restrict food and drinking services to the confinements of their premises. Meals and activities at beach resorts are not affected.
All sightseeing tours and excursions will be run to normal schedule, however we advise clients to allow some flexibility as there will be fewer options for lunch. Shops and museums will be closed by 1700 hrs. Live entertainment and dancing in Stone Town will restricted during the Month of Ramadhan, though will be provided at most beach resorts that offer this.
The Kenya Coast is also under a strong influence of Muslim traditions. Though restrictions and closings may not be as strict as in Zanzibar, there are still a number of people that will be observing the fast in the Month of Ramadhan, and similar exercise in respecting Islamic traditions should be followed by visitors whilst away from their resorts. Pollman's office will be open as normal, but their staff may be working reduced hours. As in Zanzibar, all booked services will be provided as normal.