The rhythms of this enormous city change profoundly as people’s eating habits, working practices and praying times radically change – creating a different atmosphere in Turkey’s largest metropolis.
Theologically, the month of Ramadan marks the revelation of the Holy Quran to the Prophet Muhammad in the year 622AD [which marks the first year of the Islamic calendar].
This key event is something which motivates millions of Istanbulites to stay hungry and thirsty even during long, hot summer days.
Ramadan starts tomorrow, running until July 16. Its beginning will follow the first ‘tarawih’ on Wednesday – special prayers which are held in mosques every night of the month.
Across this huge city mosques have been cleaned, companies – those selling food in particular – have gone through tight reviews and Ramadan-themed programs have already been planned.
All local municipalities have established separate ‘iftar’ tents to serve thousands of people free fast-breaking meals. It is mostly for the needy but can also be for those who would like to eat together with their Muslim brothers or sisters.
Uskudar on the city’s Asian shore, for example, will be serving iftar for 7,000 people daily in a tent established on the seaside, while in the European district of Zeytinburnu an estimated 50,000 people will be provided with iftar meals for 30 days.
Bakeries across the city have also readied themselves for a special Ramadan tradition – ‘pide’, a unique type of bread popular during the fasting month.
Available on every corner during Ramadan, pide is a must for iftar and ‘suhoor’ [pre-dawn] meals. Long queues can be seen throughout the month.
The price announcement for pide is a minor Ramadan tradition in Turkey. Istanbulites, however, were confused over the pide prices as there were various announcements this year. The most recent and official one came from the Istanbul Union of Chamber of Merchants and Craftsmen which put the price at 1.80 Turkish liras (USD 0.66).
However, it is not forbidden to sell it at different prices. One bakery in Uskudar, for example, says they will sell at 2.50 liras.
Dates are another highly symbolic Ramadan food and come in different sorts and qualities.
“It is very expensive this year, with an approximately 20-25 percent increase in prices,” says Mutlu Kose, 41, a salesmen in the Uskudar district.
“Sales, however, did not decrease. People still buy it because it is irreplaceable,” Kose says.
Another change will be in transportation with buses, minibuses, trams, ferries, metro, and taxis serving at maximum potential for around 15 million residents of the city.
Those enjoying their iftar time at some of the city’s symbolic places, like the Sultan Ahmet square or Eyup Square, will have the chance to use public transportation all night long.
Many of Istanbul’s Muslim residents will spend the hours between 3.01 a.m. – 20.50 p.m. local times [0101 and 0650 GMT] abstaining from food and drink to turn Ramadan into a time of intense spirituality.
Muslims are also encouraged to scrutinize their behavior and refrain from bad habits.
“Time for goodness, during Ramadan and always,” is this year’s theme, according to Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs.
The first suhoor meal in Turkey will start in the northeastern city of Ardahan at 2.05 a.m. and last one in southwestern city of Mugla at 3.33 a.m.
The first iftar will first take place at 19.40 p.m. in southeastern city of Hakkari and the last one in northwestern city of Edirne at 21.01 p.m.