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Experience the Spiritual Side of İstanbul During Ramadan!

An atmosphere of spirituality prevails in İstanbul throughout the month, accompanied by a celebratory spirit alongside worship and prayer.

Istanbul Sultanahmet Mosque

An atmosphere of spirituality prevails in İstanbul throughout the month, accompanied by a celebratory spirit alongside worship and prayer.

KUALA LUMPUR, 5 March 2024 – İstanbul, offering unforgettable and very unique travel experiences to its visitors, is also a mosaic of heritage and traditions during Ramadan. Throughout the month, an atmosphere of spirituality prevails; yet, in addition to worship and prayer, there is a celebratory spirit. In the evenings, iftar tables are set up in the city’s squares as families, friends, and strangers gather to share and savour. Come to İstanbul during Ramadan, taking place between 11 March and 9 April this year, and experience another side of the city….

Traditions Beyond Centuries

A lovely Ramadan tradition in İstanbul are the Ottoman-style mahyas. For centuries, mosques’ minarets have been draped with banners bearing Ramadan messages and, in the present, the messages are written in lights – an evocative sight between the Evening and Asr times. Another delightful ritual is the Sahur time wake-up call, performed by Ramadan drummers walking up and down the streets. Collecting tips, the musicians accompany their drums with beautiful ‘manis’ the reciting poems about Ramadan to wake people for the suhoor before dawn azan (call to prayer). The time for ‘iftar’, when the fasting ends, is announced with the evening azan and the sound of cannons.

Abundant Tables

Neighbours, friends and relatives gather at iftar tables, to break their fast with a sip of water, an olive or a date. An indispensable element of tables laden with the most delicious dishes in Turkish cuisine is the Ramadan pita bread (Ramazan pidesi). Another centuries-old tradition, this bread is available only during Ramadan and lines form in front of bakeries as iftar approaches. Another special Ramadan dish is güllaç, the famous Turkish dessert. Named after the rose water added to the pudding, this light, milky dessert is a staple on the Iftar table.

Güllaç
Güllaç

Even as the iftar tables in İstanbulites’ homes reflect the abundance of Ramadan, the collective iftar tables, set up in famous squares such as Sultanahmet, reinforce a sense of unity, community and sharing. In addition, iftar meals are distributed to people who cannot get home in time, at Iftar tents set up at different points in İstanbul. These communal iftar meals, where the blessings of Ramadan are deeply felt, are also a terrific way to experience the spiritual pleasure of breaking the fast. It is also a revered tradition in the city to spend iftar with friends, in modern or traditional restaurants offering special Ramadan menus.

Journey to the Spiritual Side of İstanbul

İstanbul, the only city in the world that spans two continents, is a destination that always fascinates, thanks to the cultural heritage of the civilisations it has hosted. Ramadan is an ideal time to discover the city’s historical and sacred sites, especially those dating from the Ottoman period. The Eyüp Sultan Mosque, housing the final resting place for Khalid bin Zeyd Abu Eyyub El-Ansari, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, is one such site. Some of the city’s other holy sites include Sultanahmet Mosque, the Oruç Baba Tomb and Süleymaniye Mosque. During Ramadan, you can view the Hırka-i Şerif and Sakal-i Şerif (the beard and the mantle) of the Prophet Muhammad at the Hırka-i Şerif Mosque, and visit Topkapı Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans. In the Palaces’ Sacred Relics department (Kutsal Emanetler Bölümü), many priceless artefacts are exhibited, including items believed to have belonged to the Prophet Muhammad, his Companions and other Prophets of Islam, as well as the door, the golden gutter and the keys of the Kaaba.

Entertainment that keeps the Spirit of Ramadan alive

Following the evening Taraweeh prayer, İstanbul begins to glow and shimmer as a distinctive aura rises in the city. Various events, organised in public squares such as Feshane and Sultanahmet, are among the
many attributes that Ramadan in Istanbul so special: Sufi music concerts, poetry recitals, and traditional ‘Karagöz and Hacivat’ shows keep the spirit of Ramadan alive until Sahur.

Karagöz and Hacivat show
Karagöz and Hacivat show

At the conclusion of Ramadan, İstanbul celebrates Eid in style. The morning of Eid begins with the Eid Prayer and, after the prayer, you will see İstanbulites dressed in their best clothes on their way to call on family and friends. After spending time with loved ones, another local custom is to explore the city, enjoying a marvellous Eid with visits to mosques, palaces, historical sites and other locales in the city, one by one. Other iconic stops, such as the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar are often included in this special tour, for a special shopping experience on Eid.

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