Like all people in Islamic countries, Turkish Muslims receive Ramadan with joy. They rely on astronomical calculations to determine the beginning of Ramadan. It is rare to see someone watching Ramadan’s crescent, so the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs announces the start of Ramadan.
As Ramadan starts in Turkey, lights at mosques are lit from Maghrib (sunset) until the next day. Banners are hung on mosques reading “welcome Ramadan” or “fast and be healthy in Ramadan” or the “shahada” (the Islamic declaration of faith) and other phrases that people can see from a distance.
Lighting mosques throughout Ramadan is known as “mahya,” which is deemed a reflection of people’s happiness with the start of the month. Some mosques have two minarets, some others have four, while some have six minarets.
It is a tradition in Ramadan in Turkey to hold a book fair that starts in the second week of the month. It opens its door to visitors throughout the month after the Maghrib prayer and continues late into the night.
The official working hours remain as they, so iftar time comes while some Turkish Muslims are still on their way home. The private sector, however, reduces work hours by nearly an hour. Charities hold what they call “Mawa’ed Al-Rahman” (God’s tables) in parks and streets, providing millions of meals not only to the poor, but for everyone who would like to attend and be present at the table during iftar time.
It is a common practice in Turkey that when it is time for the Maghrib adhan (call to prayer), cannons fire some shots. After iftar, young people, children, men, and women all rush to mosques to perform their prayers. Arriving late to the mosque may mean not finding space to pray, so the person may have to pray outside.
Religious lessons are a common practice in mosques that are filled with men and women and Tarawih prayers are met with great demand.
The Turks give special attention to “Lailat Al-Qadr”, when they read some religious chants.
Muslims are keen on “tasabih” (praises), which are usually performed during the last nights of Ramadan or on Eid Al-Fitr eve.
At Turkish tables in Ramadan, you would find dates, olives, and cheese. Before people have their iftar, some eat dates and a small portion of food, then pray Maghrib, and come back to the table for the main dish, while others eat the entire meal then pray Maghrib afterwards. The latter is more common.
Soup is the most famous dish at the Turkish table, along with some other foods which Turkish homes are famous for making. The Turkish have “pide” bread, which means “pie” and it is a word of a Persian origin. There is great demand for this kind of bread in Ramadan, with people queuing at bakeries hours before iftar for it.
Pies (round bread of different sizes) are the most commonly eaten food at iftar, as children wait to get their share from bakeries before iftar time.
Some of the most prominent sweets in Turkey in Ramadan are kanafeh, qatayef, and baklava.
For suhoor, Turkish Muslims usually eat olives, cheese, honey, and bread. They also have tea. People usually hang lighting and decorations around their houses to add a touch of beauty.
The tradition of “mesaharaty” is still famous in Turkey to this very day, as it is his job to awake the sleeping to have their suhoor.
A mesaharaty is the guest of all Turkish alleys, towns, and cities in Ramadan as he wanders the streets with his drum.
As the second half of Ramadan approaches, visitors are allowed into a mosque called Hırka-i Şerif in Istanbul. It is said that inside of it, there is the blessed mantle of prophet Muhammad, which was brought by Sultan Selim to Istanbul after his trip to the Islamic East in 1516. During the regular days of the year, visitors are not allowed inside.
During the first half of Ramadan, Turks are used to saying “welcome Ramadan,” and “farewell” during its second half.