The Holy Month of Ramazan has started here in Turkey and over this thirty day period devout Muslims fast during daylight hours. This means not eating, drinking, smoking or even chewing gum, from early in the morning until the evening. Once it’s no longer possible to distinguish a piece of white string held up to the sky, it’s time to break the fast. It’s also a time to reflect on one’s life, to examine whether you have been compassionate, generous and honest.
As a visitor you’re exempt from fasting, but to make the most of your travels during this month here are some useful tips.
- Forget that outside of cities like Istanbul and Ankara, restaurants might be closed at lunchtime in smaller towns and villages, because not enough people are eating out. Grab a snack or a sandwich before you leave your hotel to keep you going.
- Be afraid if you wake up at 3am to loud noises. It’s just a man playing a drum called a davul, making sure everyone is up in time to prepare and eat the pre-dawn meal known as sahur.
- Remember to wish people “Iyi bayramlar”, a good or happy festival.
- Go to an evening meal to break the fast, called iftar, if you’re invited. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get together with new friends and enjoy Turkish hospitality.
- Take candies to give to your host if you’re invited to someone’s home. Baklava is always welcome.
- Be discreet if you decide to drink water during the day, especially in summer. No one will think badly of you but imagine how thirsty any onlookers will feel!
- Do go to Sultanahmet or Eyüp in the evening. Once there, join in with the families, couples and young lovers exploring the delights of the Ramadan fairs. Sample manisa macunu, a sweet sticky paste dating back to Ottoman times, have your name written in Arabic calligraphy or laugh at the antics of the Karagöz, the Turkish shadow puppets.
* If you want to know what it’s like to live in Istanbul full-time, come laugh and cry with me in my book “Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul. Click here to get your copy.