Sucking sweet apple tobacco from a water pipe, I offered my waiter a puff of my hookah. He put his hand over his heart and explained he'd love to, but he couldn't until the sun went down. During Ramadan, if you sleep lightly, you'll wake to the call to prayer and the sounds of a convivial meal just before dawn. As the sun rises, the fast begins. Then, as the sun sets, the food comes out, and the nightly festival begins. Muhammad broke his fast with a dried date or an olive — which remain the most common fast-breakers. Saying, "Allah kabul etsin" ("May God accept our fast today"), the staff at a restaurant where I was having only a glass of tea welcomed me to photograph them, and then offered to share their meal. Anywhere in Islam, witnessing the breaking of the day-long Ramadan fast at sundown is like watching children waiting for the recess bell. Throughout my visit, every time I witnessed this ritual, people offered to share their food. At that restaurant, I said, "No, thanks," but they set me up anyway — with figs, lentil soup, bread, baklava, and Coke. (I thought the Coke was a bit odd… but they said it's not considered American anymore. Coke is truly global.)
Much as I enjoy these Ramadan experiences, my latest visit left me with an uneasy awareness of how fundamentalism is creeping into the mainstream. Mayors now play a part in organizing Ramadan festivities. During Ramadan, no-name neighborhood mosques literally overflow during prayer time. With carpets unfurled on sidewalks, just walking down the street is a struggle. I got the unsettling feeling that the inconvenience to passing pedestrians wasn't their concern... rather than trying to get somewhere, everyone should be praying.
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You are reading "Ramadan in Turkey", an entry posted on 04 January 2010 by Rick Steves.