Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and during this time of the year devout Muslims will observe a month of fasting during daylight hours.
Between sunrise and sunset, Muslims will refrain from consuming any foods or drinking any liquids as well as smoking. This month, which usually falls in July or August, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and the fasting is believed to help focus energy on prayer and purify the spirit. The fasting time during the day is used as a time of contemplation and prayer. In Turkey this month is also sometimes known as Ramazan.
As Turkey is a primarily Islamic country, it is important to be aware of these cultural traditions if you will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. As a non-Muslim visitor you will not be expected to join in the fast. However it will be very much appreciated if some awareness and sensitivity is shown. Here are some important things that you need to know if you are traveling throughout Turkey during Ramadan:
Will Restaurants Be Open During The Day?
Many tourists have been concerned that taking their holiday in Turkey during Ramadan means that all of the local restaurants will be closed until sundown and they will not have anywhere to eat lunch. However, there is no need to worry. Some of the local businesses might close or have shorter hours, but there will also be many others that stay open during the day especially in tourist areas or larger cities. Some restaurants will have their curtains closed during the day so that those fasting don’t have to watch everyone else eat their lunch.
In fact, most visitors say that Ramadan does not affect their visit at all, as it doesn’t have an impact on tourist sites and attractions. However, if you will be traveling far off the beaten path and into some of the smaller towns and villages, you might find that eating establishments are difficult to find during the day. You might want to buy some food at a market in advance so that you can eat lunch in your hotel room.
That said; try to be respectful about eating, drinking and smoking in public. Eating in a restaurant which is open during the day is fine, but sometimes walking down the street eating food can be perceived as rude. Also, lighting up a smoke in front of someone else can make it very difficult for them to resist so try to be discreet.
Sahur – The Morning Meal
Traditionally, Muslims will have a morning meal called Sahur directly before sunrise. The drummers will go walking down the street at 3 or 4 in the morning to wake everyone up before the big meal. If you find that you are being woken up too early by the Sahur, you can close the windows of your hotel room and wear ear-plugs to bed. Or, you might want to use the drums as your alarm so that you can get up and watch the sunrise.
Iftar – The Evening Meal
After fasting all day long, families and friends will gather together as the sun sets to break their fast with a special meal. Traditionally, the first foods eaten to break the fast are three dates and a cup of water. Then, after the prayers have been completed, a large meal is shared amongst the group, usually while seated on a carpet or blanket on the floor.
In the larger cities of Turkey, such as in Istanbul, there will be huge Iftar feasts held for dozens of guests. These banquet festivals are a time to enjoy the company of families and friends. If you spend time with the locals while you are in Turkey, you might be invited to an Iftar meal. This can be a wonderful experience so enjoy the opportunity! You are not expected to participate in the prayers, but you will be welcomed to sit with the group and enjoy the food.
If you are going out to a restaurant during the hour of sunset, you will find the restaurants suddenly become extremely busy and you might struggle to find a table.
More Ramadan Travel Tips
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when visiting Turkey during Ramadan:
- Be sensitive to what the locals are going through. If someone seems short tempered, low energy or spaced out, they might just be really hungry!
- Some travellers also find that alcoholic beverages are hard to find during the Holy Month, so keep this in mind.
- If you get the chance, talk to the locals about their fast and what it means to them. This is a great opportunity to learn about another culture.
Travelling to Turkey during Ramadan can make for a very different experience. However, it will give you a deeper experience of Turkish culture and an insight into the traditions of Islam.
If your Turkey flights with Jet2.com coincide with Ramadan, here are some tips for travelling during this Holy Month.