Praying and Partying in the Streets of Istanbul
Blue Mosque comes alive on evenings during Ramadan
For the month of
Not every Muslim fasts during
The happy, multigenerational partying that follows the breaking of the fast at sunset every night is a sight that's not to be missed. After hours of not eating, people are ready to chow down. Many rush home, while others stop for a quick bite at one of many temporary food stands. Long lines stretching down the street suddenly mark restaurants that have been empty all day. The city comes alive with shadow puppet theaters, public concerts, and traditional folk dances.
During the evenings, I find myself drawn to the rollicking food fest around the Hippodrome, a park-like square (formerly a Roman chariot racetrack) in the center of the
Sleep is an afterthought during this time. After going to bed late, everyone is awakened before dawn by drummers going from street to street, reminding people to get up and have a small bite to eat -- or at least a glass of tea -- before fasting resumes at sunrise.
Visiting the Blue Mosque is a must, even outside of
Inside, countless beautiful tiles feature exquisite floral and geometric motifs. Rather than saints and prophets, geometrical designs and calligraphy are used as adornment because Muslims believe the portrayal of people in places of worship draws attention away from worshipping Allah as the one God.
Muslims pray five times a day. According to tradition, the imam, or prayer leader, would climb to the top of a minaret (like a church's bell tower) to call the faithful to prayer. These days, the prayer leader still performs the call to prayer live, but loudspeakers at the top of the minarets amplify it. When this happens, practicing Muslims drop into a mosque, turn toward
Wherever I travel, having just a grasp of the dominant local religion makes the people and traditions I encounter more meaningful and enjoyable. Like Christmas is a great time to experience the energy of a Christian culture,
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(c) 2010 Rick Steves' Europe
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