The 30-day Islamic holy month of Ramazan (RAH-mah-zahn, called Ramadan in other countries) is a time of fasting, prayer and celebration. (Here are Ramazan dates.) It can also affect your travel plans.
Fasting means letting nothing pass the lips: no food, drink, chewing gum, tobacco smoke or, for the strictly observant, not even licking an envelope from sunrise to sunset. Observant Muslims also refrain from sexual intercourse during daylight in the holy month.
Most Muslims, whether strictly observant or not, use the holy month and the stricture of fasting to help them examine their lives, to remind themselves of virtues like charity, compassion and forgiveness, and to avoid vices like cupidity, selfishness and dishonesty.
Many Turks fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramazan. Restaurants are less busy at lunch, and there’s even less Turkish tea in evidence—which is amazing.
If you’re in Turkey during Ramazan, it’s polite to refrain from eating and drinking in public during daylight hours. Rather, do it inside a restaurant, tea house, cafe (some of which will be operating, except in Konya), or other private or semi-private area.
Muslim restaurant and cafe staff, who may be fasting themselves, will understand if you are non-Muslim and will be happy to serve you. Some eateries may cover their windows with curtains so as not to distract those fasting by the sight of others eating.
|Mosques are busy during Ramazan|
Ramazan is also a time of celebration, and after sunset the feasting begins with a ceremonial “break-fast” light meal called Iftar.
It always includes freshly-baked flat pide bread, and usually soup, pickled vegetables, olives and other easily-prepared edibles. Elaborate dinners are held later in the evening.
Strings of colored lights festoon trees and buildings, mosques are illuminated and crowded with worshippers.
A carnival atmosphere prevails with temporary booths selling religious books and paraphernalia, traditional snacks and stuff for the kids.
In the middle of the night drummers circulate through towns and villages to wake sleepers so they can prepare Sahur, the big early-morning meal to be eaten before the fast begins again at sunrise. They tend to make their noise around 02:30 and 03:00 am, and they make sure everyone hears them. If you don’t want to awaken, have earplugs, close your hotel room windows, or both.
Many restaurants offer special banquet-like Ramazan menus at night.
Some restaurants which normally serve alcoholic beverages may refrain from doing so during the holy month, offering fruit juices and other drinks instead. It would be polite for you to observe this stricture if you are in an establishment where others are refraining from alcohol. (In some restaurants, alcohol service may resume after the evening’s main meal is largely concluded.)
Non-Muslims are welcome and usually invited to join in the evening celebrations, which are great fun. Enjoy this special time!
—by Tom Brosnahan