Bazaar Ramadan in Malaysia has become an annual cultural institution that not only attracts locals but also tourists.
What is the Bazaar Ramadan in Malaysia?
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast during the hours of daylight (Ali, 1991). At the end of the day, many hungry Malaysian Muslims break their fast at the “Bazaar Ramadan” food stalls that line the streets of the country’s main conurbations. The Bazaar Ramadan has become an annual (by the lunar calendar) Malaysian cultural institution that not only attracts locals but also tourists (Zainal et al., 2013), who are motivated primarily by experiencing the exotic rather than any religious conviction.
The success of the Malaysian Ramadan Bazaar has resulted in its organisation being assumed by the Malaysian Tourist authorities rather than the religious or cultural bodies that would seem to be its natural sponsors (Zahari et al., 2014). The need to manage large crowds, however, has engendered expenses that the tourism industry is best-placed to meet (Tourism Malaysia, 2013).
As well as official reconceptualisation of the Bazaar Ramadan as a phenomenon of tourism rather than one of culture or religion, it has acquired an unofficial identity as an opportunity for dubious enterprise. As crowds of not particularly discerning tourists have increasingly patronised the Ramadan Bazaar, there have been instances of unscrupulous street vendors selling food that is of low quality (Oleh Bernama, 2016); similarly, FMT News (2016) has recently reported that non-Muslim Cambodian beggars have descended on the Ramadan Bazaar, eager to profit from the alms-giving that is the obligation of Muslims who wish to expiate imperfect Ramadan observance (Ali, 1991).
In summary, the Bazaar Ramadan is an essentially cultural and religious Malaysian festival characterised by colour and food, which has been culturally equivocated by the organisational and financial exigencies arising from its success and the exploitative effect of opportunistic and unofficial enterprise.
Ali, A. Y. (1991) The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, American Trust Publications: Brentwood
FMT News (2016) “‘Fake’ Muslim beggar at Ramadan Bazaar” in Free Malaysia Today, 22nd June, 2016
Oleh Bernama (2016) “DBKL monitors Ramadan Bazaars to ensure food safety” in Malaysia Gazette, 6th June, 2016
Tourism Malaysia (2013) “Ramadan Bazaar is back to attract local and foreign tourists” Tourism Malaysia Media Release, 9th July, 2013 [online] available at http://www.tourism.gov.my/media/view/ramadan-bazaar-is-back-to-attract-local-and-foreign-tourists, retrieved on 4th July, 2016
Zahari, M. S. M., Ibtisam, N., Kutut, M. Z. and Suhaimi, M. Z. (2014) “The relationship between the Ramadan Bazaar and the attraction and dissemination of information: a case of international tourists” in International Journal of Social, Behavioural, Educational, Economic and Management Engineering, 8 (3), pp. 868-873
Zainal, A., Radzi, S. M., Hashim, R., Chik, C. T. and Abu, R. (2013) Current Issues in Hospitality and Tourism: Research and Innovations, CRC Press: Boca Raton