Ramadan: the County Fair feeling 10

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The five pillars of Islam differ slightly between the major sects, but can be basically summarized as: (1) profess monotheism and accept Muhammad as God’s messenger, (2) do the five prayers daily, (3) alms to the poor, (4) make the pilgrimage of the hajj, and the one that is relevant to this particular blog (5) to fast at various times, but especially during Ramadan. The last one is the one this particular post focuses on.

Whirling dervishes dancing, ramadan festival, istanbul
From Istanbul


Ramadan is a time for Muslims to fast (during daylight hours) for the sake of Allah and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

As it turned out, I was in Istanbul at the beginning of Ramadan last year. On the European side of the Bosporus lie some of Istanbul’s most famous buildings: the Hagia Sophia , the Topkapi Palace, and the iconic Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). Immediately next door to the Blue Mosque is a public park, where families congregate in the early evening hours during Ramadan to await sun down and the call to prayer.

As they wait, they set up their soon-to-be-consumed feasts of food and drink on the tables. All around the park are vendors, selling Turkish food delights. After sundown, the evening call to prayer plays over the loudspeakers of the adjacent mosque and then, the fast is broken and the revelry begins.

Ramadan in Istanbul reminded me a bit of a county fair in the American South. Quite a bit different type of county fair, in that whirling dervishes were some of the main entertainment, but nonetheless, it was that same spirit of community and family that infused the entire place. That and the children, running around with wild abandon. It was a great festival to witness.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

10 thoughts on “Ramadan: the County Fair feeling

  • Lara Dunston

    Love Istanbul, and love Ramadan too actually – in the UAE which was our base since 1998, the days are quiet but there's a festive feeling in the evenings.Thanks for your entry! Good luck with hit!

  • Jiffer Bourguignon

    amazing photo. love the motion that you can actually see, he's glowing as he whirls. good luck!

  • Connie

    Great photo! Thank you for reminding me just how much I love Istanbul. My 7 months there were absolutely magical!

  • Baron's

    This is a great post…I wish, however, that you had more details on how these families behaved…did they sit on the ground, was there any chairs, were they all young urban families or a mix of old and young, well to do as well as poor? what kind of food did the street vendors sell? Kebabs, basturma, baklava or what??

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      All ages and types. Entire families were out there. They sat on the ground, brought blankets with them, some had chairs, there were some tables set up. Pretty much all varieties of normal people you can imagine. And the vendors were selling their normal food, just like they would normally be doing there during the day, except they just wait until sundown to open up. Much fun.

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