Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country. During the month of Ramadan (usually in August), devout Muslims fast during the day, say several prayers and then break their fast with a special evening meal.
This important time of year is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and it begins with the crescent moon phase. Fasting is obligatory for Muslims, with the exception of pregnant women, the ill, children or diabetics. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming any food, drinking liquids, sexual relations and smoking. The fast usually includes increased prayers and ceremonial recitations of the Quran.
This article will provide tips for the non-Muslim traveler or expat in Kuala Lumpur during Ramadan, including things like dining advice, etiquette and understanding.
Are Restaurants Open?
Many travellers, upon visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time during Ramadan, are concerned they will not find anywhere to eat because restaurants will be shut down during the day. Of course, while Muslims fast, this doesn’t mean no food can be found in Kuala Lumpur before sunset.
On the contrary, there is a range of restaurants in Kuala Lumpur including Indian, Chinese and Western establishments. These restaurants will be open all day no matter what. In fact, there is a lot of delicious and authentic Chinese food in Kuala Lumpur due to the considerable Chinese immigrant population.
The only places that might be closed are the Islamic-owned food outlets, which will be shut down during the day. Keep in mind Muslims will break their fast at 19:30 every night, so many restaurants and eateries will be at their busiest during this time. If you want to avoid crowds and get a table, you should avoid these peak hours.
Overall, Ramadan doesn’t change everyday life for the non-Muslim in Kuala Lumpur, but there are a few important points of etiquette you need to obey.
What Etiquette Should I Keep in Mind?
First of all, consider the fact you are in a Muslim country and a conservative dress code is appropriate. Keep your legs and shoulders covered, especially if you are a woman. Walking around baring a lot of skin is considered disrespectful. If you want to visit some of the temples or religious sites, you will not be allowed in.
During Ramadan, it is polite to avoid obviously eating, drinking and smoking in public areas during the day. It’s fine to do so in restaurants that are open or in your own hotel room. Also, remember the sale of alcohol might be limited in certain hotels, guesthouse or restaurants.
What Are Iftar Dinners?
When Muslims break their fast, they do it with the “Iftar,” the ceremonial evening meal. This is a large meal usually eaten with many others and as you walk around Kuala Lumpur at this time you will see people preparing for the feast. It begins with a prayer and then by eating three dates, as this is what the prophet Muhammed used to eat to break his fast.
Many Muslims believe feeding someone Iftar is a form of charity and is rewarding. If you make friends with local Muslims during your stay, you might be offered to join in on the Iftar feast. Take it as a compliment and accept. You will be treated to a fantastic spread of curries, nasi lemak, ayam percik, nasi ayam, samosas and more.
You can have fun and learn something by taking part in this cultural experience while visiting Kuala Lumpur during Ramadan.
About the Author:
Shreya Chatterjee is a travel writer who has been making her way across Southeast Asia and blogging about her adventures. She finds cheap Kuala Lumpur hotels on Expedia when she visits Malaysia.