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Gili Air Island Life in Ramadan: All You Need to Know

Posted on 20/10/2019

Gili Air Island Life in Ramadan: All You Need to Know

Now, you’ve finally got your first diving trip to Gili Air booked. You’ve figured out how to get here and thought you’d know what to expect. Buuuut it’s only just clicked that you’ve booked during Ramadan. And well, Gili Air is in the Islamic regency of Lombok. 

You don’t get what this means...apart from no parties. Worry not, we’re here to help! If you’re wondering about what changes. The answer? Not all that much. We hope we’ve put your mind at rest already.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In Ramadan the holy book followed by Muslims, called the Quran, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

This holy month is commemorated by our local Muslim population and Muslims all over the world by fasting. This means that they don't eat, drink, smoke...you get the picture, between dawn and sunset.

It is a month of spiritual reflection. Muslims are expected to increase their devotion and worship to God improving their Iman (faith). It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, a hefty ⅕ of the religion’s core foundation.

Eid-ul-Fitri, as known in Indonesia, is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan. It usually lasts a few days. It’s a day full of thanks to God, friends, family and of course, food...think Christmas but for Muslims.

end of Ramadan parade in Gili Air

How things change at Manta

Well, all our local staff are fasting during Ramadan. Our foreign staff usually make that extra effort to help out. Physically exhausting tasks like carrying tanks in the midday heat can be tiring as it is. Foreign staff will usually spend time lending a hand to our boat crew. You’ll see them doing the majority of the heavy lifting...metaphorically and literally. 

Our local divemasters always dive safe and know their own limits. They often guide less during Ramadan. But foreign instructors step in to cover when the need arises. 

Our local staff will pray more frequently and may need a little more time at prayer times. Muslims pray 5 times a day, every day, regardless of whether its Ramadan or not. Again, our foreign staff happily cover these slightly longer breaks. So, you’ll always have a point of contact out front should you need us.

Generally everything pretty much runs the same. The local religion and culture, including the importance of this holy month is respected by all staff. With foreign and local staff increasing communication, with task exchanges and the like, our teamwork is stronger than ever. We work together seamlessly, with those not fasting picking up a little for those who are. We work to provide the same high quality customer experience we strive to all year round.

Oh, and a little fun fact for you! Our massive Manta family celebrates this month together every year with a memorable team Iftar. ‘Iftar’ is the Arabic term for the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset.

fasting local staff digging into our team iftar during Ramadan

Every year the village of a different local staff member from Lombok cook up Iftar for everyone at Manta. And it’s always super delicious! Our local staff who usually take the Manta boat back to Lombok following the afternoon dive each day, stick around until later in the evening. Our foreign staff also stick around later and join in with Iftar preparations, eating together with those fasting. It’s a social event that all of us, local and foreign staff alike, look forward to and enjoy. It makes for an even stronger team bond, that’s for sure!

fasting local staff and western staff seated for team iftar during Ramadan

What does this mean for you at Manta?

Quick answer: not all that much. But there are a few minor changes you need to be aware of.

  1. Because all our local staff are fasting, our Waterfront restaurant closes for an hour at sunset. This gives our staff time to break fast.

  2. On Eid-ul-Fitri, and a couple of days after, the opening and closing times of our office change slightly and dives leave at slightly different times. This will all be communicated to you so you’ll know exactly what’s happening. It gives our local staff the flexibility to celebrate their religious holiday.

What does this mean when it comes to island life on Gili Air?

Things you can do

As a tourist, there are a few easy things you can do to remain respectful during this time. Cover up away from the beach...there’s a sign about this in the main village all year round but is often ignored. You wouldn’t go to the supermarket in a bikini at home, don’t do it here. Don’t push Muslim friends or staff to eat, drink or smoke. Please be patient with those serving you, fasting can be difficult at times.

Sign for tourists on how to respect local culture and tradition

Things our island does

Well...first things first, no parties. Our island becomes quieter for the month. This makes it all the more family and honeymoon or couple friendly. This may make it a little less social for the solo traveller but if it’s me-time you’re looking for, it’s a good time to come on by! 

If you’ve seen our Gili Air Food Guide, you’ll know of pretty much all the eats our island has to offer. If not, get on it! During Ramadan a lot of local warungs (restaurants/ food stalls) cater to fasting times. This means that they only serve food at breaking fast time onwards. These warungs will have a rush around 15 minutes before fast breaks. Although they may not be open in the day, you can still grab an awesome dinner! Oh, and you can get food at ridiculous o’clock in the morning. Muslims usually eat a meal before their fast begins at dawn. So, a good few warungs are open early in the morning. 

Others close for breaking fast but are open the rest of the day. And some close completely for a number of days. This changes and is something you’ll need to ask warungs when you’re here. Most Western food places run their usual opening hours but again, it’s worth checking with them to avoid disappointment.

The mosque is a lot louder in Ramadan and Quran recitation is pretty constant. Usually, it’s just the call to prayer five times a day. We’d recommend choosing accommodation far away from the mosque if you’re a light sleeper. We’re pretty far away and have accommodation options that cater to varying budgets. The North of the island is a pretty good shout too!

If Ramadan is something that piques your interest, we’d recommend visiting Lombok either in Ramadan or on Eid-ul-Fitri. Celebrations are huge! The end of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new moon’s crescent. The Islamic calendar is lunar and this sighting marks the start of the next month. This means that it’s the end of Ramadan and  Eid-ul-Fitri has begun! Celebrations on Gili Air are pretty big too with a smaller version of a walking parade than in Lombok on the night that Eid is announced.

marching in the Eid ul Fitri end of Ramadan parade

Each village prepares a float and these are brought to the mosque. This year, some included 3D mosques, a massive Quran, a camel and carriage with a 3D model of ‘Állah’ in Arabic. Oh, and they all light up...some even had speaker systems attached for Quran recitation. There’s some hanging around, socialising, viewing and walking around before a march around the island begins. Each village walks behind their own float. Quran is recited aloud through the various speaker systems as this happens. Fireworks are sent up, there’s a lot of chat and laughter and you’ll most definitely see children overdosed on sugar running all over the place.

Quran float for Eid ul Fitri

If you’re out cycling during the parade, you will have to park up for a good 15 minutes or so to allow the parade to pass. This also applies to walking on some parts of the island. The streets aren’t the widest and the parade takes up the entire width of the path. Mainly because the floats are huge! You may also be invited to walk the parade or beckoned to join in. Feel free to take part, it’s a once a year only affair. A month or so after Ramadan, the winning village is announced by the island elder.

All in all, Ramadan is a great time to visit and not much changes, especially at Manta. If you’re in the mood for an even more peaceful break, it’s the best time to come! Either way, we hope you leave this page feeling more wised up about Ramadan on our island.

By Aneesa Patel/ saltyaneesa

All images by Aneesa Patel/ saltyaneesa unless otherwise stated


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