Ramadan in Southeast Asia is best
experienced through the bazaars in cities like Singapore and Kuala
Lumpur in Malaysia.
The festival of Ramadan (Ramadhan, or Bulan
Puasa in Malay) is an important event in the Muslim calendar, a
time of personal reflection and bonding with one's family.
Muslims throughout Southeast Asia commemorate
Ramadan by fasting throughout the daylight hours. Fasting is
required of all capable Muslims, who must refrain from indulging
base needs like eating and smoking while the sun is up.
At the end of the day, Muslims break their
fast (buka puasa) with a huge meal called iftar, usually eaten
communally at home or at bazaars that are set up specifically for
Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the joyous end of Ramadan.
Fasting ends when the new moon is sighted on
the final evening of Ramadan. Once sighted, the new moon portends
the first day of Aidilfitri at sunrise, a joyful end to Ramadan
that is as anticipated in Malay households as Christmas is in
Ramadan in Southeast Asia is best experienced
through the bazaars in cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in
Malaysia. These bazaars are closed throughout the day, but come to
life in the late afternoon as bazaar food shops prepare food for
Muslims breaking their fast at sundown.
The bazaars continue to operate through the
night, providing food and shopping for both Muslims and non-Muslim
Traditional Malay dishes are the top draw at
Ramadan bazaars - chicken rice, curries, rice cakes, and juices
are ready to be sampled in these bazaars' tightly-packed warrens.
These dishes are cooked on the spot over open coals, freshness
Ramadan bazaars also offer great shopping
value on traditional items, including textiles, clothes,
decorative gewgaws, and even modern conveniences like CDs.
Ramadan Bazaars in
The Muslim majority in Malaysia (Muslim
Malays constitute about 60% of the population) eagerly anticipate
the Ramadan bazaars that help them break their fast at the end of
The shoppers in the bazaars aren't all
Muslim, though; Malaysian Chinese and foreign tourists also
benefit from the bazaars' great eats and bargains.
For Ramadan, the Ramadan bazaars all
throughout Malaysia operate the entire holy month,
opening at 4pm every day.
For pics and food recommendations, nothing
beats blogger boo_licious' lavishly-illustrated blog entries
reviewing Malaysian Ramadan bazaars in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Ramadan Bazaars in
Singapore's Ramadan bazaars sell food for
buka puasa, as well as traditional handicrafts, clothes, and so
much more. These can be found all over the island, but the biggest
ones are on Kampong Glam and Geylang Serai.
Iftar at Kampong Glam
Compound of Sultan Mosque and Muscat Street
Many Singaporean Muslims break their fast
communally in front of the Sultan Mosque, an experience you can
join yourself! Try the traditional iftar foods cherished by
Muslims: dates, congee, rice, noodles, and the milky passion fruit
drink called kathira. Kampong Glam can be reached via MRT, just
stop at Bugis station (EW12).
Hari Raya Puasa
Muslims welcome the end of Ramadan (called
Hari Raya Puasa, or Aidilfitri) by going back to their hometowns
and spending the Aidilfitri season with their close family
members. City-based Malays spend the whole day visiting family and
friends, decked out in matching baju Melayu and baju kurung.
For practicing Muslims, Hari Raya Aidilfitri
is a day that celebrates personal triumph over one's appetites -
each Muslim feels purified and renewed by weeks of fasting.
Muslims begin the day by going to the mosque
for morning prayers. Breakfast at home follows (the first daylight
meal in a long time), then family members visit cemeteries to
offer prayers for the dearly departed.
Younger family members seek blessings from
elders by kissing their hands and greeting them "Selamat Hari Raya",
or "happy Hari Raya". Children are also given packets of money by