Al Watan Reporter Ahmet Bayomi's Interview With Ambassador Ahmet Demirok
"Al Watan – Ahmed Bayomi
Turkish customs and traditions translate the joy of Ramadan
HE Ahmet Demirok, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Qatar, expressed his best wishes and congratulations to HH Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, and the government and the Qatari people on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, calling God to bless the Arab and Islamic nation.
Ambassador Demirok said to “Al Watan” that the Turkish customs and traditions translate the joy of holy month of Ramadan, stressing that this holy month strengthens the spirit of intimacy among family, neighbors and friends; as the family visits, invitations and sharing food dishes increase. Also the tables adorn by famous dishes from the Turkish cuisine which is characterized by diversity and quality.
About the spirituality of Ramadan in Turkey, Ambassador Demirok added that Islam retained its strong presence among the Turkish people which is reflected in the Turkish cities that have Ramadan religious touch. The mosques preach the Quran and sing religious songs and the minarets lit by terms welcoming this holy month. The charity banquets spread with delicious food in a lot of Istanbul streets and other Turkish cities; gathering the neighbors, friends and the needy and good people in Ramadan atmosphere enhancing the social networking values and deepening the feelings of affection, compassion and solidarity among Muslims.
HE the Ambassador said that Ramadan tents are important social phenomenon that is held every year in this month where those who are fasting sit with people whom they do not know at the same Iftar table; which spread the spirit of intimacy, cooperation and solidarity among them.
Demirok described the daily customs and traditions expressed by Muslims in Turkey for their joy in Ramadan, including "Arajuz" performances which is one of the oldest theatrical folk arts for children in Turkish cultural history tells traditional tales in humor and attractive way. The "Mesahharati" who roams the streets and Istanbul neighborhoods in the early morning beating his drum and singing Ramadan phrases. Although this Ramadan tradition is very old but it still exists in many neighborhoods of Turkish cities perhaps with a modern addition, such as what happens in some neighborhoods in Bursa city, as the people wake up on the rhythms of folkloric music played by a band dressed in traditional costumes and carrying tambourines, drums and accordionist machines; those people always enjoy this special way and welcome the band members and give them various foods for suhoor.
In general Turks receives the holy month of Ramadan with delight and joy, as all the Islamic peoples throughout the Muslim world.
Istanbul city represents the Islamic symbol in the memory of the Turkish people, as it was the Islamic Caliphate headquarter for more than five centuries, besides it contains a large number of mosques and Islamic monuments, not to mention the sacred Prophet belongings that was brought by Sultan Selim I upon his return from the Arab Middle East. This city includes a large proportion of the population up to fourteen million or more. Quran is read daily during this month in “Topkapı” Palace.
Muslims in Turkey depends on the astronomical calculations to prove the month of Ramadan and the Turkish Religious Affairs institution announces the start of Ramadan.
With the official announcement of the holy month, the minarets of mosques are being lit in all Turkey at sunset prayer till the dawn of the next day; this custom continues all the holy month. The appearance of lighting the minarets of mosques known in the Muslim Turks as “mahya” that expresses the joy of the people in the beginning of the holy month. Each mosque has two minarets at least, some have four and others have six. With the entry of this month, ropes are being extended between the minarets with words: “By the name of God, Allah, Mohammad, Hassan, Hussein, Noor over Noor, Ramadan, Khosh kaldı”.
Teaching of religious studies and reading Quran in the mosques is a prominent appearance in Turkey in this month; especially in Istanbul city which is famous by its huge mosques and luxury minarets; in particular Hagia Sophia mosque. These lessons starts with afternoon prayers and continues to the sunset time. The famous mosques in this month are full of worshipers, preachers, listeners and spectators from women and men.
At sunset time in Turkey, the artillery fire some shots and then Azan is launched in the mosques. After having Iftar, everyone, children, young people, women and men rush directly towards the mosques to pray the evening prayer and Taraweeh prayer.
The Turks are very enthusiastic to pray Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan, which is a prominent manifestation of joy and hospitality of this holy month. Although almost all Turkish people pray Taraweeh but it is noted that it is being prayed quickly, as just a little of Quran is being read and a few mosques that are committed to read full finishing in Taraweeh prayer during this holy month.
In Taraweeh prayer, the Turks are used to mention the Prophet, pray and peace be upon him, after every two kneeling of this prayer, in addition to reading some collective supplications after every four kneeling. They are also used to say in the first half of Ramadan in addition to the above: Merhaba Ramadan and in the second half of it: farewell. One of the things that Turks are keen to make in this month is the praises’ prayer in the last days of Ramadan or Eid night.
Turks pay special attention to Destiny Night, where they read the Prophet praises, as well as some religious songs. It is known for the Turkish Muslim people that they are keen and interested to read Quran during Ramadan month. Turks divide and distribute the Holy Quran among themselves, on the basis of the ability of each one to read from Quran, and then those groups go to the mosques and addressing altogether Quran finishing prayers, followed by a small religious ceremony attended by the imam of that mosque.
From the traditions of this holy month is to organize a Book Fair with the beginning of the second week of the holy month opening daily after sunset prayer till late at night. The Turkish charities institutions supported by the Turkish Islamic parties, hold every day of Ramadan Rahman Iftar tables which are open for the poor, needy and limited income people. These tables are held usually in public places.
In the second half of the month of Ramadan, visitors are allowed to enter a mosque called “Rag” mosque in Istanbul, which is said that it contains a place hiding the “prophetic rag” brought by Sultan Selim to Istanbul after his tour to the Islamic East in 1516; as the visit is not allowed in the days of the year.
Turkish cuisine is well known, usually people start their Iftar with dates, olives and cheese before having the main meals. There are two kinds of people, some only have dates to break their fast and a little food and go to pray the sunset prayer, then back again to eat their main food; these are the least. Others have their full food, and then go to pray the sunset prayer; these are the most between the Turks.
Soups are considered as the most prominent food and most important on the Turkish Iftar table, as well as some of the dishes that characterize the Turkish House. Turkish bread called Beda is very special food in Ramadan, which is of Persian origin. Among the most famous types of sweets during the holy month are Kunafa, Katayev, baklava and gulag, it is important to mention that the Turkish cuisine is one of the most delicious kitchens in the world, as well as the Turkish Muslim people are the most Islamic peoples who enjoy a distinct culture in food and drink; preparation, taste and quality."