Visiting Turkey during Ramadan: make the best decision for you
While Turkey is an Islamic nation, it is arguably also one of the most westernized Islamic cultures. You will find a mix of conservative and liberals with many observing Ramadan to various degrees when visiting Turkey during Ramadan.
This month of fasting and celebration is one of the biggest Islamic holidays and carries with it a rich history that is also greatly impacted by the culture. In this post we will take a look at what is Ramadan, what does it entail and should you visit Turkey during Ramadan.
The short answer: it depends on you and what you hope to get out of your trip!
Let’s jump in.
What is Ramadan?
The Islamic faith is made up of 5 pillars:
- First pillar: Shahada (Declaration of Faith)
- Second Pillar: Salah (Prayer)
- Third Pillar: Zakat (Almsgiving/Charity)
- Fourth Pillar: Sawm (Fasting)
- Fifth Pillar: Hajj (Pilgrimage)
Ramadan fulfills the 4th pillar of Islam and is a 30 day fast observed by most Muslims in at least some capacity. There are some who are exempt (children, elderly, breastfeeding, diabetic or women who are menstruating) and adults who aren’t able to fast are expected to make up the time later.
Ramadan is time of intentionality with regard to prayer & worship, self improvement and spiritual reflection. They are also more generous in their charity to the poor. Because of this, even those who don’t strictly follow the food fast will often use this time to take a closer look at their lives. They believe that as they do so, it cleanses their soul.
|First Day||Last Day|
|2 April 2022||1 May 2022|
|23 March 2023||20 April 2023|
|11 March 2024||9 April 2024|
|1 March 2025||29 March 2025|
During this 30 days those who are observing it will fast from dawn to sunset. What do they fast from?
- NO drinking – during the day
- NO eating – during the day
- NO sex – for the entire month
- NO smoking – for the entire month
- NO gum – for the entire month
They believe that this time of year temptations are less and thus it is easier to act rightly. This allows them to do this fast well.
Since this is a lunar religious holiday, the timing changes every year. So when visiting Turkey during Ramadan, make sure you check out the dates for the year you’re going. In 2022, Ramadan is observed from April 1 – May 1. Following this 30 days of fasting is a 3 day celebration called Eid al-Fitr or also called the Şeker Bayramı, or Sugar Holiday.
Or Sugar Holiday is the 3 day feast of celebration that marks the end of the Ramadan fast. Every country has different rules and customs for this holiday.
In Turkey, people wear their nicest clothes, visit each other and visit friends and family who have passed on by going to cemeteries.
Children especially love this holiday in Turkey as they go around to their neighbors, wishing them a happy holiday and being rewarded with chocolates or sweets in return. Sometimes they are even given small amounts of money.
Two Important meals a day
The Suhur is the pre-dawn meal. An ancient Ottoman practice was to have drummers and musicians go through the streets to wake people up so they could eat before the sun came up. This happens between 2:30 – 3:00am.
After completing this meal just before dawn, they will begin their prayers for the day.
Iftar is a feast that happens after sunset. It is typically something that many foreigners and non-muslims are invited to.
The fast is broken with this meal, starting with dates to commemorate Muhammad’s practice. It is a glorious buffet of delicious food and water as they have abstained all day.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this holiday is a special bread they make during Ramadan. It is called Ramazan pidesi. Make sure you swing by a local bakery “firin” and ask for a Ramazan pidesi. The texture is unique and lovely.
This Ramadan bread comes in a couple of varieties: with egg and with lots of sesame seeds. Personally, I am partial to the plan one which is called sade (sah day). Let me know what you think!
If you are invited to an iftar, you should most definitely go and check it out!
How would it affect my trip?
In some countries, it is illegal to eat outside during Ramadan. Thankfully in Turkey, this is not the case. Because Turkey is a secular government, there are not strict laws about it.
That being said, there are a few things you should consider when visiting Turkey during Ramadan:
- Some shops may close earlier than normal – not all and you may be surprised by which ones do and which ones don’t.
- Touristy areas are quite different. You may notice no change at all. They realize their customers are not observing the same fast as them.
- It is generally considered polite to note eat and drink out in the open or while walking out of consideration to those around you.
- Also, avoid smoking in public.
- Alcohol may be more difficult to find/purchase during this time.
- Lunar holidays start on the night before the day of the holiday. Because of this, you will see offices close at lunch time the day before the Eid al-Fitr.
Is visiting Turkey during Ramadan a good idea?
This is a question you will have to answer for yourself. It really depends on what you hope to get out of visiting Turkey during Ramadan. Here are a few things to consider:
- Are you sensitive to spiritual atmospheres? While some can feel a difference in the atmosphere during such an important Islamic holiday, most others can’t. If you’re a sensitive person, it may not be the best time of year to visit.
- Do you love experiencing different parts of others’ cultures? You will definitely experience something here during this time that you can’t any other time in the year. There is much to be gained by this amazing and hospitable people.
- What is your goal in traveling?
- If you plan to stay in the touristy areas, you will likely not notice much difference during the other times of the year.
- If you plan to visit more rural places and want to experience Turkey like a local, you will find your plans much more hindered and may not be the best time.
So this is really up to you and your preferences. If you do come during Ramadan, make sure you come back again another time in the year and vice versa!
This isn’t an easy call for sure. Either way you go it could be great! But that also means you can just come back and see what’s it’s like during another season of the year!
There are many other holidays celebrated in Turkey. You can check out my post on holidays in Turkey for a closer look at other special days in Turkey.
What do you think?! Will you be visiting turkey during Ramadan?
I’d love to hear what you decide. Happy travels!