My vacations in Turkey happened to occur in the advent of Ramadan. This fact didn’t occupy to me at first. I was busy thinking about Cappadocia, Pamukkale and my balloon flight. But everything changed on my flight from Almaty to Istanbul.
Extremely bubbly Kazakh Girl. Sitting next to me. Made me believe there is no better place than Istanbul to witness the traditions associated with this holy month for Muslim.
Due to difference between the Islamic and Christian calendars, Ramadan starts ten to eleven days earlier each year. This year the blessed month of fasting started exactly in the middle of the summer on 1st of August.
Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance. To abstain from food drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours.
It is a time to purify the soul. Refocus attention on God. And practice self-sacrifice. I was about to find out that traditions of Ramadan are well and alive in Bosphorus City.
Entertainments are usually run late into the night. As the fast can’t be broken before the sunset and Maghrib prayer. Muezzins calling from all minarets create an unique spiritual echoes around whole town. Making an intriguing background to my taxi ride on the way to the restaurant.
There is no doubt that Sultanhmet Square is the place where the cultural richness of the historic peninsula is at the zenith. All the great monuments as Hagia Sofia. Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome have stood here for centuries. making it a perfect place for many important Ramadan’s event.
The famous Fair marketing the products of Istanbul’s trademarks companies. And old professions which are on the blink of oblivion. Such as traditional Islamic handicraft of calligraphy, illumination and book marbling is held here.
Animation artists dressed up in authentic costumes circulate around the square every day. Representing figures of Istanbul Lady and Gentleman. Man with a Peg Leg are a nice touch for tourists and kids.
Ramadan in Feshane
Another area where Ramadan fervour is experienced most intensely is the building and the gardens of historic Feshane where the wholly Quran is being recited. Chants and concerts of Sufi music are being held here. As well as shadow theater plays, magicians, fire-eaters and jugglers.
I have always been interested in traditions of different religions even though I’m an atheist. I was nicely surprised with hospitality, all the tourist which are more then welcome to join in celebrations.
Whole city is truly transformed during Ramadan. Beyazit Square is a lively scene for concerts. Banks of Golden Horn hosting book fair which creates a unique atmosphere. First Ifar, the breaking dinner taking place on Galata Bridge. And for the rest of the month open air ifar dinners are being hold in all the district.
Messages of Ramadan
One of the most spectacular aspects of Ramadan in Istanbul is it’s mahya. Messages of goodwill in the form of coloured lights which decorates main mosques in the city. A tradition which dates back close to four hundred years back. The mahya can only be found in Turkey, and it bestows upon Istanbul something of a majestic air. UPDATE: I have seen such messages in Azerbaijan on my trip in June 2013.
Another interesting tradition are Ramadan drummers. Who walk the streets with their drums waking inhabitants in time for Sahur. The last meal before a long day of fasting that starts with the call for prayers at sunset. I didn’t get a chance to see The Ramadan Holidays. Three days following month of fasting as I wasn’t staying in Istanbul for so long. But surly some other time, life is long.
Now I understand why my neighbour from the plane was coming here every year! Indeed Istanbul is celebrating Ramadan BIG! And don’t forget to ask about Ramadan Pide. This delicious bread is served in every restaurant, but only in Ramadan.