Ramadan or Ramazan started today. It is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar where observant Muslims observe a month of fasting from sun up to sun set as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Not to say that all Muslims fast, it is the same as every religion, some people are more observant than others, just like during Lent. It is based on the lunar calendar and so it moves through out the year. This year it has fallen during summer, which makes it more difficult because it is hot and the days are longer. There are of course exceptions, if you are ill, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or menstruating you are exempt. Those who are fasting refrain from eating, drinking liquids, smoking and sex during those hours.
During this time people get up before dawn and east their pre-fast meal called sahur, and at sunset people usually break their fast with a date, and then eat a large meal called Iftar.
How does this affect your vacation or non-fasting residents? It won’t. But…
For one I try to be more patient and less reactive with people. When people are fasting they have not eaten or drunk for hours, and may have given up smoking cold turkey (pun not intended). This would make anyone cranky. So if I run into people who are a little brusque, I just go with it. I also let my cleaning lady off early because she worked all day without drinking anything and has to get home and prepare dinner before she can break her fast.
My husband and I try to be discreet about food as well. We will still eat in restaurants, but we try not to sit in street view parts of the dining areas. We do not eat or drink on the street during this time either. I am also more discreet about alcohol as well. Alcohol consumption is forbidden in the Quran, and I know some Muslims give up alcohol for Ramazan, even if they do not fast.
In tourist areas with large amounts of foreigners, not too much changes. Restaurants are still crowded, alcohol sold, etc. They understand they you are not fasting, do not expect you to, and honestly tourism is their livelihood. They need you to buy food and alcohol. However it is polite to be sensitive and eat mostly in restaurants or defined eating areas, not in the street. You make want to make a reservation for dinner, as restaurants may be crowded during iftar. Also, do not be alarmed if you hear drumming at 2 or 3 in the morning. It is to wake up people for sahur.
So welcome to Turkey, enjoy your vacation. The people here are still incredibly hospitable and warm, just give your hosts a break if they are moving a little slow…they may not have eaten or drunk all day and are still trying to serve you yours with a smile.
*Idea from Adventures in Ankara hold off your grilling until after iftar, even though it is prime grilling season.