Muslims begin holy month of Ramadan
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time when Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourse from the sahur meal (the meal before dawn) at sunrise to the iftar meal (the main meal of the fasting day) at sunset. It will end on the evening of June 14 after 30 days.
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (fundamental religious duties) of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion.
Welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, people are expected to fill mosques to perform “Tarawih” prayers, extra prayers specific to Ramadan according to the practices of the Prophet Muhammad, which are performed by Muslims following the obligatory night prayer known as “Isha.” The historic Blue Mosque and the Eyüp Sultan Mosque are two of the most symbolic spaces for these prayers during Ramadan in Istanbul.
Throughout the course of the month of fasting, Muslims are urged to perform extra prayers, recite the Quran, give alms to the poor, and refrain from misbehavior. Ramadan ends with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
During Ramadan, local municipalities across Turkey organize mass public iftar meals—free meals consisting of soup, stew, pudding and juice—while street performances, such as clown and shadow puppet shows are put on for locals.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Health Ministry informed citizens about the importance of a balanced and light meal for those fasting during Ramadan.
In a written statement issued on May 14, the ministry suggested citizens not to skip sahur, as otherwise those fasting would be refraining from food and water for 20 hours, instead of 16 hours.
“This would lead to the fasting blood glucose to fall earlier and therefore, for the day to be spent less productive. Therefore, sahur should absolutely not be skipped,” the statement said.
The ministry has also advised people to refrain from “heavy foods” during sahur and “excessive eating” while breaking their fasts. “Instead of big portions at one time, consume little portions with various intervals after iftar. Avoid consuming food fast, eat slowly and chew well,” it said.
The ministry has also advised people fasting to consume at least 2-2.5 liters of water per day, as otherwise various health problems, such as fainting and spinning, may be experienced with the effect of increasing temperatures.
Additionally, in an organization held by the ministry in the capital Ankara on May 14, dietitian Melek Atabey said “light food” should be consumed during sahur and people should break their fast by drinking a glass of warm water and eating a date palm.
“During sahur, instead of consuming heavy food, a light breakfast is possible. Eggs are very filling and are a source of protein. Walnuts can be eaten, have greenery on the table and one fruit can be consumed. Very strong tea should be avoided, a cup of fennel tea or a glass of ayran [a yogurt-based beverage] can also be consumed,” Atabey said.
The month of Ramadan should not be seen as “an opportunity to gain or lose weight,” she added.