One more year has passed and Ramadan (Turkish Ramazan) is again here. What is Ramadan? Well, first of all, is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Muslims follow the lunar calendar, that is why according to the solar calendar, dates vary every year. So, if we compare it to the solar calendar, the month of Ramadan starts approximately 10 days earlier than the previous year. First day (and the last one) again may vary. Why is that so? In some countries the date of the beginning of Ramadan is set, that is when the previous month finishes, Ramadan will start, meanwhile others would start fasting when they see a moon crescent. Moon is a sign of a new month. So they start observing the sky after the sunset of the 29th day of the month preceding Ramadan (which is the month of Shaban). This is also the reason, why one group of Muslim would finish fasting and start Eid a day before others. In other words, when some are still fasting, others would already feast.
There are also certain differences regarding fasting. Muslim fast during the time of daylight. This can have 2 meanings: some wait until the sundown, meanwhile other would wait until it is completely dark. In Turkey Iftar (breaking of the feast) coincides with sundown. Fast is usually broken with water and dates. After iftar, there is usually a long night prayer. Especially when Ramadan is observed during the summertime, many people won’t sleep after that prayer. They stay awake and wait until Suhoor (early morning meal), which is the last meal of the day (and afterwards they would fast again until the Iftar). In May 2018 (in Istanbul) Sahur meal is eaten around 3:45 am. Time is changing every day.
We all know, that Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, but why do they fast? There might be different personal reasons, but one of the main is that during the month of Ramadan they celebrate Muhammed receiving the holy book of Islam, Quran.
If you decide to visit Turkey during this period, then don’t worry, you will not need to fast. In big cities, like Istanbul, restaurants are mostly opened all day long, though restaurants are emptier than usual. Some restaurants are closed or open later than usual.
And what do I love about Ramadan in Istanbul?
1. Less traffic. Yes, yes, yes! One of my favourite things about Ramadan in Istanbul is far fewer traffic jams than usual. In the last few years, Ramadan was observed in the months of May, June, July and August, so Iftar times were between 7:30pm to 20:30pm, this coincides with the time when people commute from work to home. When it comes to Ramadan, people probably run home (or stay at home all day long) not to be late for iftar. There are also fewer people on the streets, so if you are not fasting you can enjoy walking on empty streets. If you have ever visited Istanbul, you know that this is quite impossible during the rest of the months.
|Ramadan Pidesi. (Pinterest)|
2. Less cigarette smoke. Smokers rule Istanbul. So do cats, but I prefer the latter. For more information about this problem, read my Ode to Smokers on Medium.
3. Food and Friends. That may sound strange, but there is nothing like Ramadan dinner. And Ramadan pide. The smell of freshly baked pide bread heats hearts and stomachs of those who fast and those who don’t. And I especially love the spirit of sharing food with friends. Many people gather in restaurants, parks, around mosques or homes to share their iftar dinners. During the month of Ramadan, food has this power of stopping the time and connecting people again. It doesn’t matter if you fast or not, but I am sure that you will enjoy sharing with food those who do. There are also some traditional dishes, sweets and drinks which are only eaten during the month of Ramadan. This aspect of Ramadan might be compared to Christmas tradition.
4. Longer Nights and Mahya. When Ramadan coincides with summer months, it is especially nice to enjoy a night walks and çays or indulging sweets late in the night. It might be my personal observation, but I feel that people become more relaxed after iftar meal fills their stomachs and this positive energy can be felt in the atmosphere. And in Turkey, there is another thing that lights up the Ramadan nights: Mahya. Mahya is the name for lit writing which is tied between two minarets of the mosque.