Ramadan: Travel Tips for the holiday season
Ramadan: Tips for Visiting Istanbul during the holiday
Our family visit to Istanbul was during Ramadan which is a holy month for Muslims. I was concerned about this initially and really thought I should avoid this time period. Knowing that Muslims don’t eat during the daylight hours of Ramadan, I figured they would feel the way I think I would feel if I fasted all day: *listless *irritable *cranky *distracted *hungry ….
I heard advice like during Ramadan, “Restaurants won’t be open!” “You can’t eat in front of others.” and “Everything will be closed.” But, we scheduled according to hubby’s work and the only window was during Ramadan…right smack in the middle of the holiday.
Our family stayed in the historical section of Istanbul called Sultanahmet in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. ( hotel reviews here) This area, with its many historical and religious sights has many, many tourists year round.
During our Ramadan visit…..
Our experiences with food during Ramadan:
*Every single restaurant was open.
*Every snack stand was open.
*Food and drink was available everywhere all day.
*Food consumption was not discrete or discouraged.
*All sights and transportation hours went on normally.
We had absolutely NO trouble at all with food and unless you knew it was Ramadan you wouldn’t have even guessed that some people weren’t eating. Life for a tourist went on as usual.
Our experiences with people during Ramadan:
*People were wonderfully warm, and not at all cranky! Turkish people are friendly and their hospitality is wonderful. We were amazed at how nice everyone was!
So, not only was visiting during Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish) easy and comfortable, but it gave us a wonderful peek at local life.
At sundown, hundreds of families gathered in the open areas of the Hippodrome and the gardens around the Blue Mosque to break the day’s fast. Picnic blankets were spread, tea kettles simmered over containers of propane (the opposite of the coolers we take full of ice) and children ran around with and without soccer balls.
The dogs that call the Hippodrome area home enjoyed the extra attention from the kiddos. Apparently, the dogs speak a kids’ language – rolling over to show the tummy is an international sign for ‘pet me, please!’. The dogs wander, but are all wearing a green tag to show they have been vaccinated and fixed. These doggies enjoy a LOT of attention. Kids of all ages love dogs! Read about the interesting recycling program that feeds the stray dogs here.
There was music and happy chatter everywhere. We strolled around with the kids enjoying the cool breeze, the sights of happy locals, and some of the world’s most significant locations beautifully lit.
One day a long promenade of shops sprang up in the Hippodrome. Handiwork from all corners of Turkey was available for viewing and purchase. Store owners were happy to discuss their craft and wares in between bites of their own breaking the fast meal (This meal is called iftar). The kids admired small boxes of inlaid wood and intricate lace necklaces.
The glimpses into real Turkey and the lives of real citizens was interesting. So, not only should you not worry about visiting during Ramadan, but if you are headed to a tourist area, where daily business will continue as usual, then you should consider going during Ramadan on purpose.
Outside of tourist areas sometimes things move a little slower. When we visited a small coast side town, we did have to wait a few extra minutes for the french fries to be ready, but that was a small price to pay. We passed the time watching a very large machine ‘comb’ the large beach. As a matter of fact, slowing down just let us see more of what we came SO very far to see!
Explore, admire, experience, and enjoy – teaching your children how to be global citizens every step of the way!
Happy family travels wherever and whenever!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist