I’ll try to make it short, I promise! Here it goes …
Ramadan (or Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, Ramathan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month Muslims worldwide fast to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic and it means scorching heat or dryness.
|Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.|
During Ramadan, Muslims all over the world shall refrain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. It’s special month, in which time is dedicated to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice. Muslims should make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, throw away bad habits; It is the moment they clean up their lives, thoughts, and feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from bad actions, thoughts, and words.
Maybe you’ve heard before Muslims pray 5 times a day. It’s true. But the fact that each time the time comes, each mosque announces and calls for pray, by using loudspeakers (which is a must for every mosque), it’s weird, at least for the first couple of days. And the voice says something in Arabic, even the Turkish people cannot understand it, but they know it’s time for pray. And I’m still confused, but they speak more than 5 times per day, sometimes is just to remember them that in the next hour, they have to pray. So there is no chance to forget about it. Also when the call starts, all the music must be paused: TV, radio, or even live music. Everything has to stop and it should be quiet so we can all hear the call.
There is one particular moment they wait for all day long, and there are a lot of jokes about it: IFTAR. It is the name of the fast breaking dinner. So after a long day of fast, they all wait for the announcement of Iftar, at a specific time (this year was around 20:15). They all prepare traditional Turkish foods, and some traditional food that they eat only during Ramadan, and wait for the announcement of Iftar, from the mosque.
It’s a special moment, which they like to share with friends and family, most of the time in their own homes. It’s a magic moment that cannot be missed even by foreigners, because after starting iftar, the world seem to stop. The Mother Nature gratifies humans with the blessing of tranquility, and an enormous feeling of quiet and serenity fills your soul. This experience was amusing me at the beginning, because I was too ignorant to realize the importance of the moment and I couldn’t understand where all the people are and why is everything so still. Walking on the street at that time, made me aware of the magic of it.
And then I could hear the sound of life, the ringing of tableware bumping into each other, forks hitting the plates, and water being poured into glasses. They all disappeared into their homes, because it was time to break the fast, it was Iftar time. And after a long day of work, with no food and no water, it will start to look like a big moment for you too. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to be amazed how religion and tradition can bring people together and help them to stay in peace. This is the true magic of Iftar: in the end, after the worst has passed, they still have the strength to be together and share their time and happiness with the most loved ones.
Fasting during Ramadan
Depending on the city they live in, Muslims have different perspective over this sacred month dedicated to Allah. As I said before, Kayseri is part of the traditional Turkey, and here most of the people do fast, even the youth. Don’t imagine that all of the supermarkets are closed during the day, they are not extreme. Some of the restaurants are closed during the entire month of Ramadan, but most of them are open, even during the day, when they are supposed to fast. So nobody’s starving, just that it would be advisable to eat out of their sight, and some of the restaurant only serve you, if you want to seat inside, so nobody from the street can see you eating. It’s a proof of respect to their ways and it’s better to keep this in mind.
Suhūr (Arabic: سحور suḥūr, lit. “of the dawn”, “pre-dawn meal”; also spelled suhoor, sahur, or sehri) is an Islamic term for the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before staring the fast, before sunrise, during the Islamic month of Ramadan.
This moment is for the ones that have no problem to wake up early in the morning, because it should be before the first prayer of the day (which is around 3:15 am). But you should too much about missing it, because during Ramadan, there are some cafes open till 1 or 2 in the morning, and of course there are also a lot of “houses of tea” open for the ones that prefer not to sleep between the two meals of the day, Iftar and Sahur. The most traditional places to drink Turkish tea (the most common thing to do in Turkey), are not too fancy, and mostly full of men, because single women do not sit in such places (that would be considered a strange event, being an unusual occurrence). So women stay in the house or maybe go to the mall with their friends, but that place closes at 10 pm, and men hang out with their men friends, while drinking tons of Turkish tea… Cultural shock.
So… moving on, if you have no patience to wait till sahur, of course you can go to sleep. Let’s be honest… after filling up your stomach at iftar time, there are not too many things that you want to do. At about 2 30 – 3 00 am, there is a good man, with a drum, walking on the streets, and making as much noise as he can, beating the drum, to make sure you get up for sahur. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. Good, now that there are all up, let’s eat breakfast, or lunch, I’m not sure about this one. Some describe it as breakfast, eating what we all eat in the morning, and others eat lentils soup and some other kind of heavy Turkish foods. It’s all up to your cravings.
After eating for the second time in the same night (making our stomach to love us even more), we can go to bed, to replenish the energy sources for a new day of fasting and work. Overall… it’s hard. I’ve tried it for a couple of days, and I can say it’s not easy. At all!
You can read more about Turkish cuisine here.
Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one’s self on the worship of God.
A common saying around here:
In šāʾ Allāh often romanized as Insha’Allah, Inshallah, or Inch’Allah, is Arabic for “God willing” or “if Allah wills”.