Best time to visit Turkey

Ramadan (Ramazan)

Ramadan drummers traditionally wake the neighbourhood up at dawn for an early meal, and the next meal is to happen only after sunset

Ramadan (Ramazan) in Turkey 2019 - Best Time
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© Tony Withers

According to the Islamic tradition, the holy month of Ramadan or Ramazan commemorates the month when Muslims revealed Koran that finally enlightened the right way to God. By a prayer, people are supposed to get closer to God. By abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset they are to learn self-discipline. Eating less wouldn't be quite reasonable without sharing. Thus, during Ramadan, many establishments across Turkey practise giving food for free, mainly to the poorer members of the community.

Tourists are not obliged to fast, and in many cities, you won't have any difficulties finding food and even alcohol between sunrise and sunset, particularly it refers to the seaside resorts. However, certain tact and respect would be appropriate, so it's advisable to eat indoors rather than in the street. To be honest, today the fast isn't taken as seriously as it used to be originally, and along with tourists, one might actually come across quite many Turks having their meal in the restaurants during the daytime.

Ramadan Isha prayers, Konya 2020
Ramadan Isha prayers, Konya

Small towns and villages are more devoted to traditions than big ones. Istanbul is the only exception, where one can experience Ramadan to its fullest. At the sunset, when the fast is broken with the iftar meal, everybody is heading out to join the common meal in the streets of Istanbul, whereas other cities are more inclined to celebrate at homes, and this means travellers aren't going to see a lot.

One of other Ramadan traditions that stem from the Ottoman times and is threatened to die out is Ramadan Drummers—they are supposed to wake people up for their dawn meal before the long day of fasting. Again, in the villages, the custom still survives, whereas in cities such as Istanbul there's a tendency to revive old traditions, so you're also likely to be woken up by a chanting drummer in the early morning.

The last three days of fasting are marked with a vibrant and sweet celebration called Seker Bayram. That's when people buy new clothes at local Ramadan markets, visit relatives and bring presents, and kids knock on the doors collecting sweets—the entire community feels the end of fasting season.

According to the lunar calendar, the dates of Ramadan are always different, every year the holy month begins ten days earlier than it used to be a year before. All in all, in tourist perspective, Ramadan promises to be quite a memorable cultural experience.