Kandil – five holy nights in the Islamic world

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Night of Power at Fatih Mosque, Istanbul, 2012.

Most people are aware of the big events in the Islamic world, such as the fasting month of Ramazan (Ramadan) and Kurban Bayramı (Eid al Fitr), when an animal is sacrificed to Allah. Less well known are the five holy nights on the Muslim calendar called kandil, meaning candle. The tradition dates back to the reign of Sultan Selim II. In the 16th century he ordered that kandil, that is candles, be lit on the minarets of the mosques to announce these holy nights to the public. Mosques are brightly illuminated for these special evenings and the Muslim congregation recite special prayers. People usually worship and sing the Mevlit, an epic poem written to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammad. Most of the pastry shops and bakeries sell Kandil simidi, similar to a small simit with or without sesame seeds. In some apartments the neighbors hand out helva or lokma tatlısı (a special Turkish dessert made of deep fried dough served with lashings of honey syrup).

Special kandil simit packets from my local Safranbolu Firin shop.

The nights on which these holy nights fall are calculated according to the revolution of the moon around the earth so the dates of the kandil differ every year. However, the names and meaning of each night remains the same. They are

Mevlid Kandili – The birth of Prophet the Mohammad
Regaip Kandili – The Night of Wishes
Miraç Kandili – Prophet Mohammad’s ascent into heaven
Berat Kandili – The day of forgiveness
Kadir Gecesi – The Koran’s first appearance to the Prophet Mohammad

Here are some more links to other special days in the Islamic calendar, such as The Day of Aşure and Hidrellez. Alternatively, get a more secular look at the extraordinary everyday life in modern Istanbul in Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City.

Kandili Mübarek Olsun


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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  1. As usual, very interesting information, we do seem to be catching up to our Islamic friends special events. Thanks Lisa!

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