What Is Ramadan?As the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, every year, it begins 11 days earlier. In Turkey, they call it Ramadan or Ramazan. This time reflects a period when Muhammad spent 30 days in solitude to reflect on the divine truth of humanity and his journey in life.
Muslims believe that towards the end of this time, the holy Quran was revealed to them. To pay homage and respect, they spend 30 days fasting in the same manner but the aim is not about food or water, but more a spiritual journey for the person to be near to Allah and realise the blessing of life.
Who Will Fast?Muslims will spend 30 days abstaining from food and water during sunlight hours. They will wake before sunrise, eat a large breakfast and then will not drink or eat until the sun goes down. The evening meal called Iftar starts as soon as the call from the mosque confirms the sun has gone down and poor people, head to select local restaurants who give away free food during Ramadan.
Generally, anyone past the age of puberty, who is fit and healthy, can fast, although the sick, elderly and pregnant are exempt.
Not every Muslim fasts though. In Turkey, many people are not fully practising Muslims or they are unable to complete the fast because it will affect their working abilities. This year, the fast is also happening during the height of summer when naturally water consumption is essential to prevent dehydration.
Fully practising Muslims who would like to fast but are unable can complete the fast, at a later stage during the year.
What is the Reason for Fasting?The main reason for fasting is a return to humble beginnings and a respect for life. Some Muslims aim to be more pious while others will spend more time than usual at the mosque or reading the Quran.
This time of reflection is to consider those less abundant than themselves, whether this is in terms of love, money, health, family relationships or physical abilities. Intense meditation, prayers and charitable actions are prime activities. It is also a time to purge any bad qualities from their characters such as gossiping, overindulgence or simply laziness.
Are There any Side Effects from Fasting?On many occasions, I have asked fasting Muslims what side effects they feel but they prefer not to focus on this, since the emphasis is not about self-gain or pain. Other Muslims have remarked on general lethargy, halitosis and a short temper hence they prefer not to socialise during this time.
What Happens at the End of 30 Days?There will be a 3-day national holiday called Seker Bayram. People spend time with family and friends. Children will knock on doors for their quota of sweets and when you visit someone, expect to eat sweets or cakes.
How Does This Affect Holiday Makers or Expats?That depends on where you are. In small villages, fasting is likely to be a focus point for the month, but in many of the big cities, and coastal resorts on the Aegean and Mediterranean, life goes on as normal. You will be unlikely to spot anyone fasting unless you ask them directly. Even the waiters in restaurants, will fast while serving food and drink under the hot summer sun.
So out of politeness, practise sensitivity. Avoid smoking, drinking or eating on public transport, or in the street. Instead look for cafes, bars and restaurants, Offices and banks operate just the same, while touristic attractions and landmarks will also stay open so life is generally much the same.
In some village and towns, earlier in the morning, you may hear the drummer boy going around the streets. He is simply waking everyone up so they can eat before sunrise. Get ready for early mornings, if you are a light sleeper!
Should You Change your Travel Plans?No, because as mentioned before, the only people affected are the ones who fast. During the 3-day Seker Bayram, traffic will probably be at an all-time high because people will travel home to be with family but other than that, enjoy your time in Turkey.
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