If you are visiting Cappadocia during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and want to be sensitive to your hosts, then you are in the right place. Read on…
Islam prescribes five pillars of practice for every Muslim. These include
1. A pilgrimage to Mecca (once in a lifetime),
2. Giving 2.5% of your income to the poor,
3. Saying the Shahada,
4. Praying five times a day, and
5. Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkey) month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
Since Islam follows a lunar calendar the month of fasting changes by about two weeks each year. For the next few years it will take place during the northern hemisphere’s summer months, meaning long, hot days.
During these 30 days Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink anything (no smoking, no water, no chewing gum, no sex) from sunrise (first call to prayer) to sunset. As you can imagine this is not easy.
Generally they arise long before the sun rises to eat a big breakfast although many of our friends and neighbors just stay up all night, eat, and go to bed before sunrise. This means they do as little activity as possible and sleep for much of the day.
This is true for many in Cappadocia. We have found that the majority of people in the towns and villages keep the fast (at least publicly). Be aware that the end of the day sees some thirsty, hungry, tired, and sometimes impatient people.
TIPS FOR THE VISITOR
For those taking their vacation during Ramazan, here are a few tips to help make your time more fulfilling:
1. Be sensitive to what the locals are experiencing. They understand that you are not fasting and do not expect you to. However, that does not mean that we should rub it in their faces. I try not to eat or drink in front of my local fasting friends. You can do what you want, it is your vacation, but if you want to show respect, then try to be discreet when eating or drinking during the day.
2. Try to get an invitation to an iftar meal. This is the evening meal in which the fast is broken. This is a cultural and relational experience you will not soon forget.
3. If you cannot get an invitation, crash the public iftar. Every town sets up dinner for the community each night. Look for the part of town in which a bunch of tables are set for dinner. The meal is free and you can experience it with the local (mostly poor) people. There is always plenty of food.
My family was walking through Ortahisar one evening and were passing the public iftar location when an older man grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to a table. Next thing we knew we were sitting with about 50 people being served a free dinner!
4. Be a learner. If you go to an iftar, watch those around you and follow their lead. Ask locals about the fast. Try to get them to explain why they do it (personal rather than general reasons). Take advantage of the opportunity Ramazan provides.
5. If your hotel is near a residential area, you will probably hear loud drummers go by between 2-3am. This is not the local marching band out for an early practice. They are waking the women up in time to make breakfast so that everyone can eat before sunrise. This would be a reason to wear earplugs if you have them. Or use it as an alarm to get up in time to make your balloon appointment or simply to watch the sunrise.
With this being said maybe some will think they should not visit during this time. If I have given that impression, I did not mean to. I expect for most tourists the experience is the same as at other times and may even be more full in terms of recognizing cultural differences.
Have you ever visited a Muslim country during Ramazan? If so, what was your experience?
Note: Photo courtesy of Photos.com - burak pekakcan
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