Experience the Beauty of Istanbul during Ramadan in 2018
- DHRUVALAKSHMI PAITHANKAR
- UPDATED May 29, 2018
- 18 Views
Ramadan - the holy month of Islam is celebrated with much zest and zeal in Istanbul. As the vast majority of citizens are Muslim, the festival of Ramadan in Istanbul is a significant affair that transforms the city completely. This is the time when you will understand that even if the city carries a European charm, the beating heart of Istanbul remains Asian. Wandering the streets that are decorated with festive lights, visiting illuminated mosques that dominate the skyline, and an echo of a prayer that accompanies you wherever you go will make your trip to Istanbul during Ramadan an unforgettable experience. If you are wondering what it is like to travel to Istanbul during Ramadan for a non-Muslim, then read on! This blog will tell you all the necessary information and tips for the Istanbul vacation during Ramadan.
And do not worry if you hear by the sound of drums in the wee hours as there are some parts of the city that still follow the old practices like drum-beating to wake up people for a pre-dawn meal. But first, understand what Ramadan is and why it is an important festival for the Muslims all over the world.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan, also known as Ramazan in some parts, is observed in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is celebrated to mark the event of prophet Muhammad receiving the Islam’s holy book - Quran from the God. This is the period of around 29 or 30 days where adult Muslims fast throughout the day without even drinking a drop of water. Those who fast, eat only twice - before sunrise and after sunset. The pre-dawn meal is known as Suhur whereas the evening meal is known as Iftar. And these dark hours are the time when lazy streets of the city transform into a lively, bustling hub.
Now that you know the basic idea of this festival, stop wondering what Istanbul is like during Ramadan, and explore the winding alleys to understand the true Turkish essence.
Eating in Istanbul during Ramadan
When you visit Istanbul in Ramadan, it means getting almost all the restaurants to yourself during a day. Even though some of the places to eat in Istanbul are closed or do not serve alcoholic drinks during this one month, you will find a plenty of options to choose from. This city is a liberal place and home to different religious communities. Many people do not fast, but everyone avoids eating, smoking, and drinking in the public areas or on the streets to respect those who are observing a fast.
Some of the must-visit restaurants during Ramadan in Istanbul are Ciya, Kanaat, Beyti, Develi, and Asitane to name a few. And if you are visiting these restaurants at night, then be prepared to wait in lines for more than an hour. The places that were deserted during a day, operate at a full capacity at night.
Street food in Istanbul during Ramadan
After the sunset, as you step out on a street, you will be engulfed by different aromas. Most of the streets are dotted with food stalls that serve ceremonial meals. Pamper your taste buds with famous flat pide bread, lamb kebabs, roast chicken combined with chickpea-studded rice, and desserts like Güllaç, Lokma, and Baklava. Visit İstiklal Avenue or Sultanahmet square for the best Iftar in Istanbul. These stalls are open throughout the night and are a perfect place to try traditional Iftar meals.
You must go to the Iftar tents that are set up in some parts of the city. These tents offer free traditional Iftar meals in Istanbul to everyone and are a good place to taste local delicacies even if you are not fasting! It is a lovely feeling to be a part of the bustling canvas while satiating your hunger.
Shopping in Istanbul during Ramadan
For those who are looking forward to buying lovely souvenirs and handmade items, Ramadan is the best time to visit Istanbul. Most of the local markets in old part of the city are full of festive items and sparkling lights. Some famous squares like Sultanahmet Square and areas around the Blue Mosque are adorned with kiosks that sell wood-graved handcrafts, local artworks along with glass products made from glassblowing technique. These beautiful bazaars in Ramadan period attract locals and tourists alike and light up the whole city.
Most of the shopping malls and stores in and around the tourist areas in Istanbul open late around noon time. As Ramadan is one of the major festivals in Istanbul, many shopping centers offer great discounts and sales. You will enjoy shopping in Istanbul if you visit the city during Ramadan.
Events in Istanbul during Ramadan
Local art performances and events that start around the time of Iftar continue till the dawn. When it comes to experiencing the unique nightlife in Istanbul during Ramadan, these are the places to explore! You can visit the well-known Beyazıt Square to understand the spiritual and religious importance of this festival through Sufi music concert, dervish shows, film screenings, poetry readings as well as special shows suitable for kids. The Maltepe district in Istanbul is one of the few places in the city that start the celebrations even before Iftar. The festivities are divided into 2 parts - before and after sunset and attract thousands of people from different corners of the city.
Traditional art performances like Karagöz-Hacivat, commonly known as shadow play, are organized for children in different parts of the city. Go to feshane to catch live performances that will tell you different aspects of Islam and Sufism.
The end of Ramadan is marked by the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr that last for 3 days. Life in Istanbul in Ramadan is all about following traditions to the T, putting on their best clothes, spending time with loved ones, and seeking blessings of elderly. Visit this city in Ramadan and get to know the whole new side of its citizens!