Ramazan is here!

Friday the 15th brought the first day of Ramazan (Ramadan), the most holy of Muslim months. Believe it or not, but this is my fourth Ramazan in Turkey!

As an infidel foreigner, Ramazan doesn’t bring many changes, particularly since I love my food too much to participate in the dawn to dusk fasting (unlike Tom in Egypt). About half of the office people keep fasting for the whole month. The others may only fast on the odd day.

Talking about food, popular foods during Ramazan include dates (hurma), soup, particularly lentil soup (mercimek corbasi) and Ramazan pide. Ramazan pide is usually a large, round and reasonably flat bread only produced in the afternoon to meet the demands of the fast-breaking (iftar) meal. If one buys Ramazan pide in the morning they are buying yesterday’s bread.

Another Ramazan food is ‘kerebic’, a flour-based sweet made with pistachios in the centre and smothered in a whipped egg white cream. This sweet is largely only eaten in the Mersin-Antakya area. I have only tried it once or twice before – will have to eat it again before Ramazan is over.

Other traditions of Ramazan I have noticed:

*Ramazan is a time of charity. People give money to local charities and basic food stuffs to people, particularly the poor. The supermarkets have special packages for Ramazan containing cooking oil, salt, rice, lentils, spaghetti, tomato paste, etcetera. Sevil gave all the employees (myself included) such a box today.

*As the daily Ramazan fast begins before dawn, before practising the fast normally wake up very early. To help people wake up, drummers walk the streets banging their drums. This morning at around (I guess) 4 am I heard the drummer(s) go past 4 times!!!

This extremely archaic tradition should die a sudden death. To compound the pain, at some stage during Ramazan the drummers visit each apartment asking money for their job. People now have alarms to wake themselves up at 4 am IF they want to. According to Ahmet, the discontent over the drumming has grown over the last few years and there are thoughts banning the practise. Hooray!

Happy Ramazan!

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