The Month of Ramazan

Ramazan began a few weeks ago, and to be honest I haven’t really noticed any drastic changes in Izmir besides the TV and billboard ads advertising food during Ramazan. Strangely there are a lot of commercials for beverages like coke and lemonade. When I mentioned this to a Turk, he said that usually Turkish people bring drinks or deserts to the Iftar (the celebratory meal at sundown that breaks the daily fast).

Ramazan last for a month, and is a religious holiday for Muslims that provides an opportunity for giving up all worldly pleasures during the day which include any food, drink, and instead focus on prayer and self-reflection. There is also a emphasis on giving to those less fortunate than yourself through monetary means, and most cities provide large tents filled with free food for the public to enjoy during Iftar.

Ad for Iftar food tent

In Izmir, most of the restaurants hold regular hours, and the cafes seem far from empty. Izmir is an exception to most of Turkey (especially the East), since a large majority of the country strictly observes Ramazan.

Some more interesting facts about Ramazan:

-Elderly adults, individuals who are sick and pregnant ladies are excused from the fasting. A healthy individual’s body adapts to fasting in an amazingly quick fashion, and according to health professionals doesn’t have any major negative short or long-term effects. In fact, one positive health benefit is that fasting usually lowers people’s cholesterol levels.

-The Suhoor is the pre-fast meal eaten right before the sun rises.

-A crescent moon (a new moon) indicates the first day in the month of Ramazan, which in the past was a clear indicator of when the month started.

-The month of Ramazan is not considered a holiday, but is instead a religious observance. The holiday comes after the month is over, where there are a few days where it is a national holiday for the whole country.

-Ramazan comes from the Arabic root amida or ar-ramad, which means dryness or scorching heat.

-Traditionally in the past a cannon was fired at sunrise and sundown to indicate the Suhoor and Iftar, but nowadays due to safety reasons fireworks are substituted. Also, the call of prayer from local mosques signifies the start and break of the fast.