Ramadan in Johannesburg

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

About the Interviewee

Travel photography and food enthusiast born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Aaliya Mia

1. Tell us a little bit about how Muslims in Johannesburg prepare for Ramadan? Is there anything they do specifically before the first day of Ramadan?

Most of the Ramadan preparations revolve around food. Most of the iftar eats are prepared before-hand and frozen. There’s also the selling of dates, zamzam water, and other essentials for the month. Islamic radio stations often advertise special Ramadan programming and special competitions or series.

2. How would you describe the overall Ramadan spirit in Johannesburg? Does it have a different feeling on the streets when you go out in Ramadan?

The Muslim population of Johannesburg is spread out across a few suburbs. Those with a large Muslim community usually have a stronger spirit, especially around the shopping areas and masjids. You usually have a great buzz of activity near iftar as everyone goes out to get things they need for iftar or go over to their families' homes to share the meal.

3. How does a typical iftar would look like?

The meal begins with dates. There will be an assortment based on what the person prefers. Many people enjoy haleem at iftar. Haleem is a thick, lentil-based soup with either chicken or mutton. Samoosas are a standard feature of the iftar table as well as various cocktail savories such as pies, meat-filled buns, pakora etc. Many people have become fond of the Arab way of breaking fast with bread, yogurt, dukkah, and dates. Many also enjoy simit with yogurt and other dips.

4. How does a typical suhur (suhoor) would look like?

Suhur varies greatly from home to home but in most cases, people stick to standard breakfast meals and incorporate more protein or high fiber in it.

5. Is there any food or drink that is specifically consumed in Ramadan? Yes, please tell us about the deserts.

Samoosas are a Ramadan staple. They can be filled with any filling but the most common is chicken mince. Falooda is usually consumed at iftar. This is a rose and cardamom flavored milk-based drink. Some people prepare a dessert every day. Some common ones include daytara, which is a small fried dough dipped in syrup and coconut. Haleem is also very common.

6. How do people celebrate Eid al-Fitr?

The day begins with the eid prayer. Most men attend and it is not common for women to do so. Everyone wears new clothes and gets all dressed up. It is a day spent with family. A family may eat each meal at different family members’ homes. Each meal is quite lavish. Even breakfast consists of delicacies like roast chicken, lamb, or prawns. Each family has its own unique traditional meals. After breakfast, people would visit their family and neighbors. Many people pay a visit to the cemetery. Lunch is most often chicken biryani but many also prepare more luxurious meals like prawns or steaks. There are always plenty of desserts, cakes, and pastries which are often homemade. Supper is also filled with more delicious eats. It really is a day of celebration, eating, and family.

7. What makes Johannesburg special in Ramadan? Tell us about any activities, festivals, bazaars, etc..

There is definitely a strong Ramadan spirit in Johannesburg. There are many feeding schemes that take place where people distribute food to the needy. Many masjids also provide meals such as haleem to those who perform salaah there as well as any who may need food. There are several markets that are usually for small businesses providing clothing for eid and eats.

8. What should travelers expect to experience if they visit Johannesburg in Ramadan?

Most of the activity would be in Muslim majority areas such as Mayfair, Fordsburg or Lenasia. However, there are many masjids across the city and each would be very open to anyone wishing to have iftar there. Halaal food is easy to come by in Johannesburg. There are some Muslim hotels such as Palm Continental Hotel and Al-Kazaba hotel which would be willing to provide suhoor. Since South Africa only has a 1%population of Muslims, most other activities go by unaffected.

9. If I was visiting Johannesburg in Ramadan, where would be the best place to have iftar?

The Nizamiye Masjid in Midrand is the largest masjid in the Southern Hemisphere and is based on the design of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne Turkey. There are 2 restaurants on the premises which serve Turkish food. The masjid also provides iftar meals. It is a beautiful masjid and wonderful to perform salah there. Many halal restaurants also provide an iftar option where they provide complimentary dates, samosas, and falooda to those who dine there. They usually have salah facilities as well.

10. Anything else you want to share about Ramadan in Johannesburg?

If there is anything else you’d like to know, please let me know in the comments!

Kind regards

RAMADAN 2020 PROJECT: Fellow sisters and brothers around the world joined Halal Travel Experts to spread the joy and knowledge of Ramadan. To become a part of this exciting project, email us at blog@halaltravels.com. It is just 10 simple questions but the answers go beyond the oceans.


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