Ramadan in Turkey

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Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar calendar, that lasts 29 or 30 days. The beginning of Ramadan moves backwards eleven days as the lunar calendar changes each year. Although Ramadan is known as a month of fasting, it is more than that.

Fasting means that eating, drinking, smoking and even chewing a gum are not allowed from the the first call to prayer at the twilight before sunrise till the twilight after sunset. However, pregnant women, women on their period, children until the age of puberty, travellers and the elderly and the sick are not entitled to fast.

According to Islam, Ramadan teaches Muslims to be patient, to have self-discipline and self-control and to have empathy for those who are less fortunate. It also helps Muslims feel closer to God spiritually, by obeying God’s rules and being a good human being. The fasting process not only cleanses the body, but also the mind, as it helps the souls get away from worldly activities and opens the heart for more spiritual experiences by encouraging actions of generosity and charity.

After the forth call to prayer at sunset, the fast is over till the next morning. Green lights will appear on the minarets of mosques, which is a sign that you can now eat. To break the fast, most people start with a sip of water and some dried dates, following a light meal consisting of freshly baked pita bread, pickles, side dishes with olive oil and some warm soup.

During Ramadan in Turkey, people opt to stay indoors and streets are not crowded. The restaurants and cafes are mostly empty during the daylight hours and some restaurants might not serve alcoholic beverages during Ramadan. The swimming pools and beaches are also mostly empty as while they are fasting Muslims are not allowed to swim.

In contrast to this slow and calm environment during the day, the nights are glowing with colorful lights and people having fun, walking, listening to concerts at public parks. Mosques are usually packed with people praying the God. Some restaurants offer special Ramadan menus for families and friends to eat together. Some municipalities offer free food and festivities in central spots and parks as well. Tourists and non-Muslims are also welcome to join these festivities.

The end of Ramadan marks the beginning of Ramadan Eid, which lasts for a few days. During this time, people visit their families and relatives to eat sweets and remember the old days. It is a tradition for the kids to collect candies in the neighbourhood.

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Below is a script that our American colleague Jill from BarefootPlus Travel wrote on her Ramadan experience in Turkey. We would like to hear your Ramadan experience in the comments below. Ramadan Mubarak everyone 🙂

A  whole section of the Taksim square was roped off and set up with tables and chairs – for a public Iftar (evening meal to break the fast).  I asked how to participate and was told to just show up at 8PM.  It’s free.  So that’s what I did.

The pictures below do not capture the evening.  The tables were set up with meals in a box.  At some point waiters brought styrofoam containers filled with the hot part of the meal – soup, rice and a stew.  There was live music, actually quite good Turkish music, by a five piece group.  There was a huge screen on the stage behind the musicians that showed the gathering crowd.  Young boys, mostly Syrian I think, squiggled under the barricades and helped themselves to unclaimed boxes on the tables, and then squiggled back under the barricades to go eat in a group in Gezi Park.  The meal started at 8:45pm and by 9:00PM people were already leaving.  Then came the most heartbreaking scene.  Scores of young boys and girls, again I’m sure they were Syrians, started going from table to table and picking up any leftover food, even half-eaten portions of rice.  I felt very bad because I didn’t not have to eat the dinner provided.  I had food back at the apartment for a perfectly good meal and I could have given my whole box to one of the kids.  But, I didn’t think of that til after I had eaten most of the dinner.

Monday evening there was a public Iftar at the Hippodrome in SultanAhmet.  I’m told there is one every night of Ramadan, each in a different part of the city.  How one knows where a particular night’s public Iftar is, I have no idea.  Nor, do I know who pays/sponsors them.  I’m assuming the government.  Although, Turkcell had a banner over the stage at tonight’s Iftar. by Jill

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