el-Adha or Eid el-Kebir in
Arabic, Kurban Bayramı (koor-BAHN
bahy-rah-muh) is the most important Islamic
religious festival of the year,
and a 4 or 5-day public
holiday in Turkey. It will
affect your travel plans, so be
prepared for it. (Here
are the dates.)
Bayramı, which starts on 10 Zilhicce
(Dhul-hijja) in the Islamic
lunar Hijri calendar, is
also the time of the annual
pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj),
so both domestic and international
travel is intense in
Turkey at this time.
Kurban Bayramı doesn't mean you shouldn't
go to Turkey. You should plan
for the holiday, though. Depending
upon where you travel, you may find
it changes your plans very little.
Here's what to do:
1. Plan not to travel on the
first or last days of the holiday
period. If you can avoid
traveling on the day before and the
day after these dates, that's probably
2. Have hotel reservations,
if possible. (When the holiday
falls in summer, everybody takes
off for the beach...but not in winter!)
3. Have some cash on hand
when the holiday week starts. You
should be able to withdraw cash from ATMs
(at least on weekdays), but it's
good to have a reserve, just in case.
more about Turkish money...
The good points: some
museums and sights (such as the bazaars)
may be closed on the first day of the
holiday, but some may be open for
some of the other days. There will
be enough to see and do.
You may also be invited to share in
the festivities, as I
was many years ago in eastern
Turkey, which could make your trip
Rest assured, tourism doesn't
come to a halt during Kurban Bayramı,
but it does change a bit. So long
as you're prepared, it should be
Banks & Businesses Closed!
Most banks, business and government offices are closed
for five days or longer, so you should stock
up prior to the start of the holiday on Turkish
lira cash and any supplies you
Shops and bazaars
tend to be closed on the first day
of the holiday, but some if not most
will re-open after the first day. Major museums, such as Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia, are closed in the morning on the first day, but open at 13:00 (1 pm) if it is not their weekly closing day. A
few shops and businesses stay open
even on the first day to provide essentials. Some restaurants are open.
Public transport continues
to run, and is heavily used. Even though extra capacity (more trains, ferries, etc.) are added to the schedules during this time, planes, trains, buses and
hotels are likely to be severely crowded during
the holiday period.
more than 2200 buses depart the Istanbul International
Bus Terminal in Esenler daily at the beginning of the holiday,
with Turks off on vacation or to visit friends and
family, so avoid travel then, or have iron-clad reservations
and be prepared for delay and inconvenience.
The festival celebrates the Biblical and Kur'anic
account of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his
son on Mount Moriah, proving Abraham's
complete obedience to God. In the story, God stays
Abraham's hand at the last moment and provides a
ram for sacrifice instead, praising Abraham for his
this tradition, the head of each
Turkish household hopes to sacrifice
a sheep or other food animal on the morning of
the first day of the holiday period.
A lavish meal is made from the meat,
friends and family are invited to
feast, and the excess meat and the
hide are donated to charity.
You may see authorized sacrifice abbatoirs (kurban kesme yerleri) in fields outside of cities. These special areas are established by city governments for the sacrifice of animals under sanitary conditions. It is illegal to sacrifice animals outside of these areas.
Because the main purpose of the sacrifice is charity, many Muslims—especially those living in large cities—choose to donate money rather than perform the sacrifice, a substitution allowed in Turkish Islam.
you are anywhere around one of these
family feasts, you may be
invited to share in the
bounty, as I was in Eastern
Turkey: see the Eastern
Sacrifice story in Bright
Sun, Strong Tea. Don't miss
the chance if you get it.
—by Tom Brosnahan