If you want to taste and embrace Ramadan in different colors and tastes, you must combine fasting and traveling which will lead you to an awesome experience. My intention here is not to advise young people to start a journey on the first day of Ramadan and finish it for Eid, but to discover this precious month in a different perspective by experiencing the taste of Ramadan in other countries and cultures.
The aroma of Ramadan is translated in different vocations in different times and places. During the time of the Prophet (p.u.b.h) and sahabas, from what was narrated to us, Ramadan was a journey of spiritual fulfillment and a contest of good deeds.
During the Ottoman Empire, sultans and pashas during Ramadan used to open their doors, castles, and royal palaces for an open invitation to whomever wanted to attend their iftars so they could also have the opportunity to be close with them. A remarkable example of this was Melek Ahmed Pasha (1650-51), who used to open the door of his house every Monday and Friday to whomever wanted to attend those iftars and listen Quran from the best reciters of that time, invited from the vezir to make hatme until the end of the Month. At the same time he used to donate or give presents such as jewelry, clothes, and other precious gifts while greeting them after iftar by thanking them for having accepted his invitation.
Ramadan in Macedonia
I have been told that Ramadan in Macedonia was an amazing experience. That the atmosphere can be felt much more there than in my country. Through the invitation of my friend and the insistation of her family I decided to touch this reality from closer. The first night, due to the fatigue from the trip, we decided to have an iftar at home and that was literally the first and the last night we did so.
Every night, women-only-iftar-parties were organized by different associations, business women, and simple mothers and housewives with a big heart. Before and after iftar it was common to take part in any meeting or seminars. And the night wasn’t over yet. I was impressed by the fact that every night they visited each-others home where they continued the kind of- chit-chat-lectures about islam and conversations about religion topics. Women used to attend taraweeh and after that drinking tea somewhere and from there to other places such as friend houses or NGOs open houses waiting for suhoor. This wasn’t a problem because streets were very crowded although it was after midnight. It seemed like during this month men forgot all kinds of prejudices about the women hanging out until the morning. Women were almost free from any responsibility and contribution to the family, and men didn’t mind it. Sometimes I used to wonder: what do they do about cooking? Well, during Ramadan it wasn’t a big deal. They were invited to some friends house for iftar, or having iftar with all the other mates in some restaurants. I used to envy women in Macedonia. They were the Sultanas of Ramadan.
For the first time I experienced Ramadan in a European country in Malaga, Spain. As in any other tourist destination, the streets of Malaga are crowded with people walking around. You can only feel that it is still Ramadan only when the sun goes down and at the bazaar with immigrants – mostly Muslims – you can notice people with a bottle of water and a packet of dates near their stalls. While in restaurants you do not see any “iftar menu” and you did not even see Muslims rushing for taraweeh. It reminded me more or less of the atmosphere in Albania.
I try to find some place with halal-or kosher- or vegan- food, but in the attempt to do so, I hear the adhan of maghrib and take a taxi to the nearest, or better say the only mosque of the town. We break the fast with water and dates. I rushed to take the bus which was taking ages to come and decided I will pick up the first taxi approaching. No taxi on the horizon. In despair and hunger, almost losing hope, a couple in a car stopped close to me. They recognised by being a tourist in trouble and offered help. They just have pizza for iftar as a last moment solution until they will reach home. We had a small chat with this lovely family. I will never forget this little moment of joy, the noise of the children in the back seat with me, the aroma of seafood pizza, the taste of the slice on my hand, the silhouette of the Palm trees which reminded me of my home town.
Ramadan in Turkey
In Turkey, Ramadan is characterized by the brotherhood, diversity, unity, solidarity and especially humanity. The tradition of generosity during the Ottoman Empire seems to have been inherited even nowadays. For the first time I experienced the feeling of sitting at a table with hundreds of other Muslims. Where the poor, the traveler, the muhacir, the student, the professor, the employee of the administration, the mayor, the deputy, even in special cases the prime minister or the president share the same atmosphere and the same food
Walking on the streets of Istanbul means getting drunk from the aroma of the different spices. In Taksim or other Arab-majority neighborhoods, the smells of saffron, cumin, and other spices invite you to enjoy Palestinian falafels, Uzbek Pilavi, Uyghur manti and Syrian or Lebanese sweets. In this area of the city, the Yemeni coffee aroma is so provocative and irresistible that you cannot stand without having one, despite the cost of you being unable to sleep.
The great bounty of experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim country reminds me the sound of your neighbor knocking at the door to offer Ramadan pie or any traditional dish for iftar; when different associations organize iftars only for foreign students who could not go for holidays in their country, and when the announcement of the pilot in the airline to the travelers that is the time of breaking fasting. And when you approach the airport you hear the captain voice:”Our team wishes Happy Eid to all our passengers”, which gives a pleasant atmosphere to the festive days.