05 October 2005


Ramadan is upon us again and the newspapers are full of introductory articles explaining rules and background, running through the Five Pillars of Islam and generally explaining things for us foreigners.

It's been interesting to have a Muslim friend here (Naime, who is an old school mate from secondary school) this year who is sharing her perceptions of the local customs and how they compare to Turkey and the German Turkish community she grew up in. The most interesting tidbit of information so far has been that for a long time German Muslims would start Ramadan on the same day rather than observing separate starting times as is usual here for Shiites and Sunnis. Apparently numbers were not large enough to warrant separate celebrations. As Muffadal (a colleague of Stuart's) explained it, Sunnis start Ramadan when someone has actually observed the new moon, whereas Shiites begin on the new moon, i.e. just before the moon becomes visible. They determine this date through calculation of moon phases.

Naime was surprised at the way eating is handled during Ramadan, specially the habit of curtaining off areas in hotels and closing the blinds in restaurants so food consumption is invisible to the public. In Turkey, specially in the cities, restaurants are open as usual, and eating and drinking in public is not frowned upon (actually, it is a little more than frowned upon here, as public eating can incur a fine). I have heard the same from a friend who lived in Cairo.

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