Visiting Turkey during Ramadan

Are you visiting Turkey during Ramadan? Here are some important things to know.

Traveling during Ramadan
Image: Joao Pinheiro

There are about 7.6 billion people in the world. And around 24% of them – 1.8 billion – are fasting from sunrise to sunset. Every day. For an entire month.

What is Ramadan (or Ramazan, as it’s known in Turkish)?

Ramadan is the holy month of Islam (the ninth month of the lunar calendar), the start of Ramadan moves backward by about eleven days each year and lasts for 30 days. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Most people (non-Muslims) associate Ramadan with fasting, but there is more to it. Ramadan is a time of reflection. A time to understand the suffering of those who go without having their basic needs, such as food and water.

Ramadan is a very special time and opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation. “We pray more, eat less and give more charity. We exert our efforts and practice more good deeds than usual to gain the happiness of our Lord”. Ramadan is not a diet and the purpose is not weight loss. Fasting enables people to resonate with the less fortunate and helps you to practice gratitude over things you might take for granted.

Future Dates for Ramadan:

2019: 06 May – 04 June
2020: 24 April – 24 May
2021: 13 April – 12 May
2022: 2 April – 1 May

From dawn till dusk, people refrain from eating, drinking (even water), smoking, chewing gum and engaging in sexual activity during the day, but also from gossiping, using profane language and ill tempers (fighting). Children, pregnant women and the elderly do not take part in abstinence. The pre-dawn meal is called “suhoor/sehri” and the daily fast is broken with an evening meal at sunset called “iftaar”. After iftaar there is a special prayer called “taraweeh” (night prayer) in which our Holy book (Quran) is recited. The whole period of fasting ends with Eid – a 3-day feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

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How to show respect during Ramadan

Learn – Don’t pretend Ramadan isn’t happening at all. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions. Don’t be shy to educate people in your circles if they don’t know about Ramadan.

Accept an iftar invitation –Iftar is the breaking of the fast after sunset. It’s usually a big communal meal and non-Muslim friends can be invited. If you are invited, take flowers as a gesture of friendship.

Be Mindful –Understand that the month is not necessarily an unpleasant experience. It is voluntary and actually pretty joyous, so don’t patronize or pity anyone. Or even worse, say something rude like mentioning how fasting can lead to weight loss.

Food – Most people will try not to eat, smoke and drink in front of those fasting especially on the streets or on public terraces. It’s okay, you can eat as you normally do and keep in mind that unlike Emirates, restaurants and cafés will be open during fasting hours in Turkey so you can eat there. Restaurants are less busy at lunch, but the (fasting) staff understand that you’re a non-Muslim and will be happy to serve you.

Give – While fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, another is the act of charity. This Ramadan, please consider giving your time, energy, and heart. You may have clothing in perfect condition that you just don’t wear anymore, so instead of letting it collect dust in your closet, donate it to someone in need. Donate blood or perhaps sign up to be an organ donor.

The greetings Muslims use are “Ramadan Mubarak” and/or “Ramadan Kareem,” which again may vary according to language, region, and sect, amongst other factors. These roughly translate to wishing someone a Blessed Ramadan or Generous Ramadan, respectively.

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