Best time to visit Turkey

Ramadan (Ramazan)

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


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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 practice 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 is like that at or near the seaside resorts. However, certain tact and respect would be appropriate, so it's advisable to eat indoors rather than out 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.

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. If you visit Istanbul during Ramadan you can share an iftar meal with dozens of locals at places like Siirt Şeref Büryan Kebap Salonu near Sarachane Arkeoloji Parki, Mahir Lokantası in Sisli or Kanaat in Üsküdar neighborhood. Or opt for more touristic eateries around Galata Bridge. Most restaurants have a special iftar menu at this time.

Another Ramadan tradition that stems from the Ottoman times is Ramadan Drummers—they are supposed to wake people up for their dawn meal before the long day of fasting. 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. In Istanbul alone, there are about 2,000 Ramadan Drummers. You can also hear them in residential areas of Denizli, in Southwest Turkey, and other cities.

Istanbul mosques are glowing with different colors during Ramadan. You can enjoy the illumination and festive atmosphere at Sultanahmet, Eyüp Sultan Mosque and other significant places of worship.

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 the 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.

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