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October 11, 2009

Ramazan Nights

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevin @ 8:45 pm

My friends David, Ben, and I were fortunate enough to visit Turkey during Ramadan (Ramazan in Turkish), the Moslem holy month of prayer and fasting from dawn until dusk. Much to our surprise, the scene in Istanbul resembled Mardi Gras rather than Lent.

Every day, hordes of the faithful descend upon the park between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, where they spread blankets and prepare picnics for when the sun goes down. That’s when the party really starts. Booths line the Hippodrome, from which vendors sell everything from shish kebab to belly-dancer costumes. Bands play nightly. Teenagers hold hands and stroll among the obelisks. The restaurants and bars are packed with hungry diners, thirsty drinkers of raki or Efes (the local beer), and smokers taking puffs from hookahs. The manner of dress varies from casual to the hijab, the black full-body covering worn by devout women.

Believe it our not, we saw a young woman getting off the tram who wore a headscarf AND a miniskirt. Strange, indeed, to Western eyes.

After spending the first weekend in Istanbul, we flew down to Izmir on the Aegean coast, rented a car, and worked our way back north. Along the way, we visited ancient sites such as Pergamum, Ephesus, and Troy, and more modern sites such as Gallipoli. Then we spent the rest of our time in Istanbul, where we walked the Theodosian walls and cruised the Bosphoros, among other things.

By the end of the 10-day trip, we had eaten as much grilled meats and drank as much Efes as we possibly could. In between, I took photos. Here’s a slideshow. I hope you enjoy it!

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