Ramadan – or Ramazan, as it’s called in Turkey – is the holy month of Islam. One of the five pillars of the Muslim faith, observing Ramadan brings people closer to Allah and teaches them qualities such as patience and humility.
The lunar calendar means Ramadan falls on slightly different dates each year, moving backwards each time. In 2020, for example, Ramadan begins on Friday, April 24 and will end on the evening of Saturday, May 23. In 2021, it will begin on the evening of Monday, April 12 and end on Tuesday, May 11.
You’re less likely to be aware of much difference to everyday life in the Antalya area or other popular resorts than in more traditional places. However, there are several Ramadan customs and traditions you might notice.
A time to fast
From sunrise to sunset those observing Ramadan do not eat or drink – not so much as a sip of water passes their lips. To prepare, before dawn they eat sahur – a large meal of nutritious foods that will sustain them through the day.
In some areas, you might hear drummers walking through towns and villages, beating their drums and singing to wake people in the early hours. This is a tradition dating back to before we all had alarm clocks and is to ensure people have enough time to eat before sunrise.
A nightly feast
The end of the day’s fast is signalled at dusk, by the fourth call to prayer of the day. You might also hear cannons being fired to announce it’s time for iftar – the meal eaten to break the fast. Some people start with a light snack, such as special Ramazan pide bread with olives, pickles and soup, followed by more elaborate dishes later in the evening.
The nightly iftar is often a community event, with neighbours and families coming together to share food. It’s a very sociable time, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join them. Just because you might not be a Muslim doesn’t mean you’re excluded – enjoy being part of the occasion.
What can tourists expect?
Restaurants, bars and other places open as usual in tourist areas, so Ramadan is unlikely to affect your holiday. However, be sensitive to those around you who are fasting. Try not to eat or drink openly in public away from places serving refreshments. If your server seems distracted or even a little short-tempered, remember that he or she has likely been on their feet all day, waiting on people without food or water to refresh themselves during the heat. Be patient, kind and respectful of what they are enduring.
Banks and public offices will be closed when Ramadan ends, as it is followed by 3-5 days of national holidays so be aware in case you need to visit those offices.
The 27th night of Ramadan
The 27th night of Ramadan, called Kadir Gecesi (Ka-deer Gech-essi) in Turkish, is the holiest night of the year for Muslims. The ‘Night of Power’ is when the first verses of the Koran are believed to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammed in Mecca in 610AD.
It is revered by Muslims as a night of forgiveness, when Allah will forgive the sins of those who spend it in prayer, and when good deeds are more meaningful than on any other night. This year, Kadir Gecesi falls overnight on May 19-20.
Once Ramadan has ended there is a three-day holiday to celebrate and marks the occasion, starting at sunset on the final day. Şeker Bayramı (Shecker by-ram-uh) translates literally as ‘Sugar Holiday’, and it’s traditional for sweets, chocolate and candy to be given at this time, especially to children.
If you have local friends, you might want to give them a special gift. Otherwise, keep a bag of sweets handy for any children you meet. In some areas, they will even knock at your door.
This year, Şeker Bayramı begins on Sunday, May 24 and ends on Wednesday, May 27. Traditionally, it’s a time to get together and celebrate, and many families plan holidays. The roads are busy with travellers, and resorts are full of visitors.
To acknowledge that someone is observing Ramadan and to offer kindness, say ‘Hayırlı Ramazanlar’ – pronounced high-ur-lur ram-azan-lar. It means ‘Have a blessed Ramadan’.
After Ramadan is over, when it’s time for the holiday and celebrations, say ‘Ramazan Bayramınız kutlu olsun’ (Ram-azan by-ram-unuz cut-loo ol-sun), which means ‘Happy Ramadan feast’. Alternatively, the simpler ‘İyi bayramlar’ (ee-yee by-ram-lar), which means ‘Good holidays’ is equally welcome.