|Mosques lit up during Ramazan|
On August 11th 2010 the holy month of Ramazan starts. One of the first things I usually notice is the arrival of packets of dates in the supermarkets - one can’t generally find them at other times of the year. Many people like to break their fast with a sip of water and a date or an olive. My dear old father-in-law used to.
In recent years there has been the introduction of various types and prices of Erzak box. Every supermarket has a choice of them on sale. Erzak means supplies or provisions, so these Erzak boxes are given to people one wishes to remember and help during the month of fasting. The box might have a packet of sugar, a packet of tea, a bottle of oil and some other groceries. It’s a handy way of letting people know you care about them, are thinking about them during this special time and of fulfilling Ramazan duties. Many people have some idea about what happens during Ramazan. Fasting is from sunrise to sunset, no food or drink must pass the lips. The time is also used to offer more prayers, ask for guidance and forgiveness as well try to perform good deeds and practice self-restraint.
Is it all right to eat and drink outside during Ramazan in Turkey? In my opinion the answer is yes and no. When in Rome, do as the Romans do is a good rule of thumb. If you are in a touristic area and many people are sitting outside in cafes etc. having a meal or a drink, then it’s fine. If one is in a street, region, village or town where there don’t seem to be any restaurants open let alone people munching away as they go about their business, then it would be wise and courteous to refrain. Staff working in eating places might be fasting themselves but are happy to serve customers. There may not be seating outside in certain places but it is fine to sit inside to have a meal. Alcohol may not be available in certain areas and again it’s best to use one’s discretion.
The breaking of the fast meal at sunset is called Iftar. In some towns and cities notice that it’s time to break the fast is given by having a canon go off! Otherwise people just listen out for the ezan, the call to prayer. Delicious flat pide bread is served along with soup and light dishes of different vegetables. Heavier meals may be served later. Some hotels and restaurants serve elegant, luxurious banquets; while local municipalities serve free meals and everyone is welcome.
It is a tradition for drummers to go around in the middle of the night to wake people who wish to fast so that they can prepare and eat the early morning meal before sunrise, called Sahur. If one doesn’t know what’s going on, the drumming can be very loud and even frightening!
Another lovely tradition is that the mosques and minarets are lit up with many lights, some even spell out beautiful phrases. One example is ‘Intercede for us, Prophet of God.’
Being in Turkey at Ramazan can be an exciting, interesting and joyful experience!