This evening the Holy Month of Ramazan will begin for many millions of Muslims in Turkey.
Thirty days of fasting
The holy month of Ramazan (also known as Ramadan) begins in Turkey on Friday 26th May 2017.
Then, for 30 days, observant Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset.
Ramazan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar and very important for Muslims across the world.
It is one of the five precepts of the faith and not only a time for families, fasting, prayer and contemplation; Ramazan is also a time for giving thanks, making peace and reconciliation.
It is the time when practicing Muslims examine their own lives, appreciate the precious gift of food and drink through abstinence, struggle with the importance of self-discipline and consciously remind themselves of virtues such as charity, compassion, and forgiveness.
A guide to Ramazan
As the fast in at the height of summer it will bring with it additional pressures of heat and a very long day. Imagine not drinking any water in the heat and you’ll soon understand what people are putting themselves through. For smokers it will be a difficult time too without their fix of nicotine.
In Turkey, the impact of fasting is sometimes known as Ramazan ‘kafasi’, or ‘Ramazan Head’ in English.
This is a distant, irritable, and some say it’s a ‘spaced out feeling’ that people get from going without.
What to say
“Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun”
Nil by mouth
During the period between sunrise and sunset nothing may pass the lips of the faster – no food, drink, smoke or chewing gum. Nothing. Not even excessive saliva. This fasting is known as oruç.
Observant Muslims will also refrain from swimming or showering during the daytime fast in case water passes the lips.
But, when the sun sets and the fast is broken, participants will celebrate with a feast known as İftar – ‘Break-fast’.
At the end of Ramazan there is a three-day holiday, known as Şeker Bayramı or Ramazan Bayramı. This is a time for celebration.
Why does the date of Ramazan change each Year?
The date of Ramazan changes by ten days each year according to the Gregorian calendar, although it is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar. This is because the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, while the Islamic calendar is based on lunar months. This difference means Ramazan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 10 days earlier every year. This is a 33-year lunar-based cycle. The date for the beginning of Ramazan may also vary from country to country depending on when the new crescent moon is sighted.
Kadir Gecesi: The Night of Power, when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that on this night, God blesses everyone, forgives all sins, grants all prayers, and angels come down to earth. Muslims often offer extra prayers on this day, particularly the night prayer. They awake, pray, and hope Allah will give them anything they may desire on this night.
Arefe (Ramazan): This is a half day holiday in preparation for Ramazan Bayramı
Ramazan Bayramı (Şeker Bayramı): The fasting is over. Three days of present giving, sweet eating and feasting begins.
- Fethiye, Marmaris and Bodrum are tourist areas so allowances are made for visitors. In fact many tourists will probably be blissfully unaware, not only that it is Ramazan but also that shopkeepers, waiters or hotel staff are fasting.
- You will see people (Tourists and some Turks) eating, drinking and smoking during the day, but it’s good form to be considerate to those Turkish people who are fasting and do any eating or drinking discreetly. This is particularly the case if you smoke – walking down the street puffing away isn’t going to make you popular with those craving nicotine.
- Cafes and restaurants will be empty and closed during the day away from the tourist resorts and in more rural places, or traditional cities (like Konya) you need to be vigilant.
- Religious beliefs can be strong, so dress modestly and don’t let people see you eat/drink or smoke in public.
- If you are travelling outside a tourist area you may find it difficult to find anywhere to eat during the day so take some food and drink with you but avoid eating it in public spaces.
A few things to watch out for:
Fasting makes some people irritable, especially in the first few days, so be extra careful to be polite and respectful in your day to day dealings.
The Ramazan rush-hour
Around dusk the hungry faster will speed home for their İftar meal.
Hungry, dying for a smoke and with low blood sugar, their driving may be erratic.
So be careful crossing the road or driving around about this time.
In fact try to avoid going out at this time and wait half an hour after sunset and the streets will be quieter.
Bang Bang – Ramazan Drummers and cannons
Early wake up call
It’s dying out now, much to the disappointment of some and the delight of others. But in some towns and cities, and in previous years parts of Fethiye, a drummer stalks the streets in the early hours of the morning (from 2:00 am in some cases) beating his drum to wake up fasters for their breakfast. This can also be a very effective call if you aren’t a faster. If you don’t want to be disturbed we suggest you invest some earplugs. Seriously, after a few days it is possible to just about sleep through it, or go back to sleep when it’s finished.
Cannons and the Call to Prayer
Each evening, at the sun dips below the horizon, the call to prayer will echo from the mosques’ minarets around the town. There will, at the same time be the loud and for some rather startling sound of booming cannons. These are traditionally fired from the old castle area. A couple of years ago Ramazan started without the cannon but finally got going a few days late. This year we have not yet been told whether or not the cannon will be used.
During Ramazan, a special bread becomes available (called Ramazan Pidesi) which is large, round and sprinkled with black cumin seeds. These make great bases for French bread style pizza.
Supermarkets will also sell Ramazan hampers stocked with certain foods. These are frequently given as gifts by employers to their staff.
Ramazan in Fethiye
The Belediye prepare for Ramazan by cleaning the mosques and delivering Ramazan boxes (Ramazan Paketleri) to the elderly and needy in the districts of Fethiye.
During Ramazan there will be İftar Çadırı, (İftar Tents) attracting vast numbers of local people. These are usually funded by local religious charities, the Fethiye Muftuluğu (Provincial Mufti Office) the municipality and local businesses.
The municipality sometimes organizes Ramazan events, although last year they were organized by the Erasta Shopping Centre.
Some business may have shorter opening hours during Ramazan, so keep an eye out for signs advising any change of open hours.
If you are travelling away from the popular resorts restaurants may only service one meal, the Iftar meal, at sunset and only with a reservation. Those restaurants may also refuse to sell you alcohol. Planning ahead is the best advice at this time of year.
Out of respect for fasters, some people, even though they are not themselves observing Ramazan, choose to wait until İftar starts before starting their meals.
Swimwear is not an appropriate dress code for a shopping trip in the centre of Fethiye and this is particularly so during Ramazan.
Be aware that public transport will be full at the end of Ramazan for the three-day Şeker Bayram festival.
Roads will be full too, so it could be better to postpone any non-essential journeys until the holiday is finished.
If you must travel by intercity coach or plane on these days make sure you book well in advance. If you must drive any distance be careful.