So we’re already half-way through Ramadan! I know I’m beginning to sound like a stuck record (we need to find a new-age MP3 related term for that!) when I say this but time flieeees!
The only other country I’ve experienced Ramadan in is Turkey.
Though Islam is the official religion there, it was very unlike any other Islamic country I’ve been to. We could even go into the Blue Mosque without having to cover out heads. They hand out scarves if you want to cover your head, but it’s not a requirement.
The only rule was that we not wear shoes inside the mosque and to not have your legs exposed (which our Turkish guide forgot! She wore shorts with leggings and had to take the scarf they give at the mosque to use as a sarong! ). They also had a sign asking us to not sit on the stairs outside while putting your shoes back on. As you can see… even this rule wasn’t followed. But no one really did anything.
I guess it’s because it is a mixture of two cultures with two religions leaving a very strong mark in the making of the country , so geographically as well as culturally, it is a lovely mix of Asia and Europe. Basically, you can drink your wine wherever you want to!
If you visit any other middle-eastern country during Ramadan, you would know it’s Ramadan. You will not find anyone eating out during the day, restaurants will mostly be closed until iftar (when they break the fast) and in Dubai, you’ll find a lot of hoardings advertising Ramadan special offers and sales at every possible advertising space. Even our shopping bags have Ramadan Kareem printed on it.
In Turkey though, it is business as usual! People wear what they want to (though it was cold when we went, so no one was walking around in tank tops and hot pants or anything!), there are no reduced working hours and the restaurants are all open, you can eat out in the streets for all they care. In fact, you will not even realize it is Ramadan until iftar.
We were in the Grand Bazaar when the call for iftar happened.
All around us, shopkeepers shut down temporarily and set out make-shift tables right outside their shops, laid out food and had themselves a little picnic right there!
Walking past them, with the call for the prayer in the air mixing with the exotic smells and sights of the Grand bazaar made me feel like I was in another world, like an Alladin story or something! It all seemed so unreal! And wonderfully so!
My hotel room had a view of the Blue Mosque, and at night, as I lay in bed all curled up under the warm quilts, I could see the mosque lit up, shining in the cold night air, looking a larger than life, surrounded as it was by darkness all around, and …well… a little bit scary even. But lovely! :)
Turkey will always have very special memories for me. Not only was it one of my first trips with the gang, it’s also one of the most magical places I’ve been to! And everyone should experience something like that at least once in life!