The month of Ramadan is considered the holiest and most sacred month of the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar. Muslims firmly believe that it was during this exalted month that the archangel Gabriel descended from the heavens and revealed the Message to the Prophet Muhammad.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to elevate their level of spiritual and physical submission to God by way of fasting; that is to say, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and also husband-wife intimacy from the breaking of dawn until the setting of the sun.

As we prepare to welcome the holiest of months, here are the dates, calendar and guide to spending Ramadan 2021 around the world.

Ramadan dates and calendar 2021

The arrival of Ramadan has always been associated with a certain amount of mystique and contemplation. The exact date of the month’s beginning is traditionally determined by religious scholars/authorities under the cover of night as they seek to observe certain sightings related to the appearance and cycle of the moon.

Determining the arrival of Ramadan can (and often does) get complicated. The start and end dates of Ramadan may vary according to which part of the world you’re in. But based on the previous year, it is generally agreed that Ramadan will start on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.    


Ramadan observances around the world

In Middle Eastern countries, work and school hours are cut short during Ramadan. Hotels remain open as do restaurants within their grounds. All other restaurants are mostly closed during the day with some closed for dine-in only. 

For those who do not practice Islam, having meals, drinks and cigarettes during the day are generally unacceptable. In some countries, it is even punishable by law. Women must also take care to dress modestly and conservatively. Shoulders, necklines and knees are expected to be hidden from view during Ramadan.

In Southeast Asian countries the likes of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the month of Ramadan is observed as a joyous affair. Muslims in the region are still keen to revive the age-old traditions and customs they have inherited from their ancestors. This is particularly observable in preparation of local traditional foods and merry-making after breaking the fast.

Vendor selling food during Ramadan in Malaysia

In Eastern European countries, Muslims are among the minority. However, Ramadan is still considered a significant religious observance by both the government as well as its non-Muslim population. For example in North Macedonia, Muslim families whip up food not typically served outside of Ramadan, such as baklava, pacha, dates, yogurt all complemented perfectly by the soft and airy somun bread. These delightful cuisines are exquisitely arranged on the sofra, the Turkish word for essentially a table prepared for dining with family and friends.

Unlike in predominantly Muslim countries, there aren’t any particular rules or prohibitions to be observed during Ramadan. Life pretty much goes on the way it always has for the majority of people in North Macedonia.