Experience Ramadan in the İstanbul style
Visitors can observe this holy month in a setting where people make an effort to exhibit love, charity, and tolerance
THE city of Istanbul, where two continents converge, is also the location of several extremely unique Ramadan customs. Ramadan, known in Turkish culture as the “Sultan of Eleven Months”, is a month of introspection, self-control, sharing, devotion, and fasting.
Yet, this holy month is also observed peculiarly, particularly in Istanbul.
Ramadan falls between March 23 and April 22 this year. Visitors to Istanbul then could participate in the city’s particular Ramadan customs and culture. They can observe this holy month in a setting where people make an effort to exhibit love, charity, and tolerance.
The blessings of Ramadan are felt everywhere
İstanbul greets Ramadan with Ottoman heritage banners draped between mosques’ minarets.
These illuminated inscriptions highlight the spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan with peaceful messages while adding a picturesque touch to the already unique landscape of İstanbul.
Another lovely and venerable Ramadan tradition is the Ramadan drummers. These musicians walk the streets before dawn, drumming and reciting poems about Ramadan to wake people for the suhoor before dawn azan (call to prayer).
Fasting for Ramadan is a daily ritual. The fast, which starts with the azan at the time of suhoor, ends with the evening prayer and the sounds of cannon fire. The spiritual aspect of fasting extends to the iftar – the fast-breaking evening meal.
At bountiful tables, diners usually break their fast with a sip of water and a few olives or dates before proceeding with the meal. While the iftar tables in the homes of İstanbulites reflect the abundance of Ramadan, the city’s cafes and restaurants offer rich menus with traditional dishes, including the fresh-baked Ramadan bread that imbues the city with a tantalising aroma.
Fasts broken at the communal iftar tables in the city squares emphasise the importance of unity, tantalising and sharing.
During Ramadan, visitors can experience the spiritual pleasure of breaking the fast at a collective iftar or dine in one of the many restaurants featuring special iftar menus with various Ottoman and Turkish dishes.
Ramadan is also a time when specific dishes come to tables. The most well-known Ramadan treat is probably “güllaç,” a Turkish dessert. This delicate yet delectable treat is also considered the ancestor of the “baklava,” and is made with milk, rosewater, pomegranate, and a unique kind of dough.
Traditional entertainment until the suhoor
The Tarawih prayer, performed in İstanbul’s magnificent mosques following iftar, further reinforces the feelings of worship and community. After the prayers, traditional Ramadan entertainment starts in different squares, especially in Sultanahmet, revitalising the city and its inhabitants
Religious conversations, poetry recitals, and folk performances – music, dances and storytelling – stand out in the city’s squares. At the same time, traditional shadow puppet plays starring the characters of ‘Karagöz and Hacivat’ amuse children and adults alike.
A spiritual journey through İstanbul’s holy places
Another aspect that makes İstanbul unique during Ramadan is related to the city’s many sacred sites.
To name just a few of these holy places: the Eyüp Sultan Mosque (Eyüp Sultan Camii), home to the tomb of Khalid bin Zayd Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari (Halid bin Zeyd Ebu Eyyub El-Ensari), the companion of the Prophet Muhammad; the Oruç Baba Tomb, where the first fast of Ramadan was opened; Yusha (Yuşa) Hill, which is alleged to contain the tomb of the Prophet Yusha; and the Yahya Efendi Tomb.
Historical sites such as the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), the Blue (Sultan Ahmet) Mosque, and Topkapı Palace are also appropriate places to visit during Ramadan. The Hırka-i Şerif, the holy relic of Muhammad, can be seen at the Hırkai Şerif Mosque throughout the month of Ramadan.
Experience the joy of Eid in İstanbul…
In İstanbul, the first day of Eid, which bids farewell to a peaceful Ramadan month spent in worship, is commemorated with Eid prayers. In İstanbul during Eid, you’ll see the city’s residents on the road to visit their elders, wearing stylish clothes and carrying boxes of sweets or pastries.
After relatives reunite, the Eid holiday continues at the city’s parks and entertainment areas so children can enjoy the holiday enthusiasm. Offering historical sites, traditional experiences and entertaining activities in the spirit of Ramadan, İstanbul awaits its guests for this Ramadan.
– The Vibes, March 17, 2023