It is Ramadan time! Ramadan last a month with a 3-day festival following it. Every year many traditional entertainment activities take place in Istanbul with participation of thousands of people. Here are some facts and tips about Ramadan in Istanbul:
1. No Food or Drinks During the Day
Nearly a billion Muslims all over the world will not eat or drink anything from dawn to the sunset.
2. Sahur is the Deadline for Eating & Drinking Before You Go To Bed
The meal eaten before starting fasting every day is called “sahur”. People get up at dawn, eat sufficiently until the morning “ezan” and sleep again. Five minutes before the ezan is the time for the last glass of water!
3. Iftar is the End of Fasting
The fasting ends with the evening ezan, which is called “iftar” time. Turkish families set the richest table among others during the year in iftar time and spend large amount of time around that table together. In recent years Turkish people more often go out for iftar. Between 8.30 p.m. and 9 p.m. it is nearly impossible to find a seat in popular places.
4. Pide Rocks!
If you ask a Turkish person what comes to his mind when you say Ramadan, he will probably reply with “pide”. Pide is a special kind of bread which is softer than the regular bread. It is round and preffered hot mostly. That’s why many Turkish people fall into line in front of bakeries just before the iftar time. You should definitely try it with butter!
5. Dates get Popular
Some foods become popular during Ramadan. One of them is “hurma”. Its popularity comes from a hadith of Prophet Muhammad advising Muslims ending their fasting with hurma. It is a sweet fruit that you shouldn’t miss. Others are traditional Ottoman foods or beverages such as “şerbet” and “macun”.
6. You will Hear Crazy Drum Solos in the Middle of the Night
Before the dawn people will play drums on streets to wake people up for the sahur. They ring the houses’ bell to collect tips.
7. Famous Shadow Play: Karagoz & Hacivat
Children are not forgotten. The traditional Ottoman entertainment “Karagöz-Hacivat” takes place in specific places to attract children. It is a shadow play, played with two-dimension puppets.
8. Caps on Minarets
Only in Ramadan you can see huge, short captions glittering between the two minarets of central mosques, which is called “mahya”. They are mostly about goodness of Ramadan. The most popular one is “The Sultan of the Eleven Months” (Tr. On Bir Ayın Sultanı).
9. Scientific Discussions
The most frequently asked question during Ramadan: “If I accidently drink water, do I break the fast?” All television programmes about Ramadan have been searching for its answer for years!
10. Tarawih Prayer
Ramadan is the time when Muslims go to mosque more often. Do not surprise if you see many people praying on streets in front of mosques around 11 p.m. for the Tarawih prayer.
11. Free Bus Rides
Good news! Some public buses (40 Taksim-Sarıyer, 110 Kadıköy-Taksim, E10 Kadıköy-Sabiha Gökçen Airport and 25G Sarıyer-Hacıosman-Mecidiyeköy-Taksim are the ones you may use) work 24 hours during Ramadan. This year a new bus line between Eyüp and Beyazıt waits for its passengers who want to explore Muslim life during Ramadan on closer inspection.
12. Oruç Baba Makes Your Dreams Come True
The most popular places during Ramadan is the Mausoleum of Oruç Baba in Topkapı. Rumour has it that if you end your fasting in the first day of Ramadan with vinegar in this mausoleum, Oruç Baba makes your wishes come true.
13. Do Not Offend the Fasting Muslims
If you are strolling around more conservative parts of Istanbul, it is better if you pay attention to not drinking water in public too often. In those kind of places, you can even see restaurants are closed during fasting time.
14. Festivities are a Must-See
Do not forget to check activities in Feshane in Eyüp during Ramadan. Every year there can be found great concerts and shows mostly on Islam and Sufism.
This epic dessert is made of güllaç dough prepared with corn starch and wheat flour, although originally it was made only with wheat starch. Güllaç contains walnuts between the layers that are put in milk. It's usually topped with walnuts, pomegranate, and ground pistachio.
16. Family Reunion
When Ramadan ends, Ramadan Eid starts! During 3 days people visit their relatives and older people give children some money and candies, which is why Ramadan Eid is also called “Sweet Eid”. Ramadan is when Turkish people come together and feel gratitude for what is given to them. Do not hesitate to join them and share their enthusiasm. You cannot always have this chance to experience Turkish and Muslim cultures together!