Friday in Tunisia

Page update - Jan 19, 2023

What restrictions are in place for tourists on Friday, the holy day in Islam? What to expect? What to buy in advance so as not to be uncomfortable? What are the pros and cons for tourists? Read the answers below on this page.

Friday for Muslims

Friday (Arabic: "Jumu'ah") is a holy day for Muslims. Most key events in Islam have taken place or are due to take place in the future on Friday.

On Friday, Muslims perform the obligatory group prayer of Jumu'ah Namaz (Salat Al-Jumu'ah). It takes place at lunch time. It is obligatory to pray in a group of believers and always in the presence of an Imam. Therefore, most Muslims go to the mosque on Friday at lunch time. The Jumu'ah prayer is longer than the usual one, as a sermon is held additionally.

The restrictions for tourists in Tunisia

There are few of them.

First - mosques. You can't get into the Great Mosque of Kairouan and the Great Mosque of Sousse. They are closed to tourists.

Second - shops & currency exchange. Banks, post offices, and government offices have a long lunch break - usually from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (12:00 to 14:00) so that employees can go to mosques.

The situation in the hotel exchange offices is different everywhere - somewhere they work with a normal lunch break, somewhere with a long break, somewhere without a break at all, it's just a matter of luck. In any case, we recommend you don't take any chances and change your money in advance. Read our in-depth review "Currency Exchange in Tunisia".

Small shops may be closed because the owner (aka the only employee) has left for a mosque. Big shops are usually open. Cafes and restaurants are also sometimes closed for a long lunch break, but this is very rare in the resort areas.

Third - alcohol. Magasin General (MG) shops have liquor departments closed. The MG shops themselves are open as usual and only the alcohol departments are closed. Read our detailed review "Magasin General".

Bars in beach hotels serve alcohol even on Fridays. All Inclusive does not recognise holy days.

The rest of the shops that sell alcohol in Tunisia (there are few of them) also close their alcohol departments on Fridays. Some bars and restaurants do not serve alcohol to customers.

If you can't do without alcohol on vacation and you go without All Inclusive, we recommend that you stock up on alcohol for Friday beforehand. Read our detailed review "Alcohol in Tunisia".

Friday has its pros

As in most Islamic countries, Friday is "market day". Every town has a special market for farmers and traders arrive on Friday.

These markets are situated away from the tourist areas. They are usually open until the afternoon, i.e. before the Jumu'ah prayer, although some are also open in the afternoon. Some are open until Monday, you could say weekend markets.

These are markets for Tunisians, so the prices are much lower. The date fruits selled there are the freshest (newest crop) and 1.5-2 times cheaper than in tourist shops. You can buy specialty harissa varieties there and it is very cheap. But you have to haggle! Hide your money and documents in your inner pockets and beware of pickpockets!

If you want to go to such a market, ask the hotel staff at the reception about its location, they usually know. Or get in a taxi and say the phrase "friday market", taxi drivers usually understand.

The most famous market for tourists is in Nabeul, close to Martyrs' Square. This is where tourists from hotels in the resorts of Nabeul, Hammamet and Yasmine Hammamet tend to go.

Many hotels have an "Oriental Night" dinner on Friday. On this day, musicians are invited to play in the restaurant, an extended selection of Tunisian cuisine is prepared, and sometimes an extra show in the restaurant or a master class in cooking one of the national dishes is arranged.

Where do all these traditions come from and what are they for?

Every tradition or custom has a function. In our world, nothing just happens.

Before the advent of Islam, Arabs were mostly nomadic tribes. They roamed in small groups, often in families. Naturally, many problems had to be solved outside their family or group. For example, to buy or sell something, to arrange the marriage of a son or daughter, to simply communicate with distant relatives, to ask advice and so on.

It was convenient for all the surrounding nomads to gather somewhere in one place at one time to solve these issues. With the advent of Islam that place became a mosque, and the day was Friday. If everyone gathers at the mosque on Friday for a common prayer, it is convenient to solve business after or before the prayer, since all are gathered together. In Arabic, juma is translated as both Friday and meeting.

And wherever there are many people, there is an ideal place for trade and exchange. Hence the tradition of the Friday market. Such gatherings were always very convenient for the authorities, as it was possible to bring to everyone new decrees and laws.

All of these traditions have survived to this day, which means that they have retained their functions.

What else you need to know

- Among Fridays there are some that are doubly sacred. Firstly, they are Fridays in the holy month of Ramadan, read our review "Ramadan in Tunisia" about it. Secondly, when Friday coincides with one of the religious holidays;

- If you're going to the Friday market by taxi, see the official fares in our in-depth review "Taxis in Tunisia - fares and rules".

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