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Istanbul is a holy city where mosques, churches and synagogues are side by side together. Ramadan, which is the time of fasting for Muslims, is a very special month for this blessed city. Ramadan is the name of the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As it is lunar calendar, the timing of Ramadan shifts slightly each year in Gregorian calendar. This year, it is between 6th of May and 4th of June. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad received the initial revelations from Archangel Gabriel during this month. This is the reason why Ramadan is considered as the most sacred month of the year. Muslims taking part in Ramadan do not eat or drink anything during daylight hours, eating one meal just before dawn and another. The end of Ramadan is marked by ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ (Ramazan Bayramı in Turkish), the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast. A special celebratory meal is eaten during the festival, the first daytime meal for a month. Not only is Ramadan worship time for believers, but it is a festival-like month, during which İstanbul offers various Ramadan-related activities in a number of locations.

The mosques throughout the city are decorated with mahya, a lighted religious text, hanging between two minarets of mosques. It is definitely a worth-to-see thing especially at night. Ramadan activities start each day after iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims end their Ramadan fast at sunset, and last with the sahur, the pre-dawn meal before fasting starts.

There are several locations in İstanbul where Ramadan activities take place such as Sultan Ahmet Square, Eyüp, Feshane and Yenikapı. Sultan Ahmet is definitely my favourite with its historic setting and vividness during the Ramadan. The square is located on the site of the ancient Hippodrome. It has often been remarked that just as Hagia Sophia was the centre of the religious life of Constantinople, so the Hippodrome was the centre of its civil activities. Today, the square is still the centre of such activities as well as being one of the top touristic destinations.

During Ramadan, it is a traditional activity for Istanbulites to break the daily fast here with other worshippers. The square is welcoming activities after iftar such as concerts, Sufi music performances, book fair, poetry nights, traditional art exhibitions, Janissary band performance, a traditional Ottoman military chorus named Mehter Takımı in Ottoman Turkish, and many more. You see also pedlars selling boiled or grilled corn, chestnut and macun, traditional candy sticks from the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Yenikapı is another location where a whole range of Ramadan activities take place. It hosts iftar everyday along with traditional Ramadan events such as Karagöz, the traditional shadow play with puppets, open-air theatre, religious concerts etc

Beyazıt Square is the place within the historic peninsula that hosts a number of Ramadan activities which I really enjoy. The Turkey Book and Culture Fair opens its doors each year during Ramadan to visitors at Beyazıt Square. In addition to artists from Turkey, writers, poets and musicians from various countries around the world are taking part. A range of jewellery, accessories, traditional textile products and other gift items at the traditional shops around are the other components of the lively scene of the square.

Eyüp Sultan and Feshane are my other favorite locations for Ramadan activities. Every Ramadan a gift item and book fair is set up at the district of Eyüp which is located at the banks of Golden Horn. There is a Quran recital, each year at the historic building and garden of Feshane (Ottoman Fez Hat Factory), to which most-renowned hafezes (people who has completely memorized holy Quran) of the country participate.

My favorite Ramadan activity is to drink Turkish coffee and to have chat with my friends at Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi (Religious School) after iftar. Located close to the Grand Bazaar at Çemberlitaş, the building is over three hundred years old. It is regarded as the ideal place to meet and mingle with different people around. 

You can find, other than Turkish coffee, hookah or narghile as well in the coffee houses inside. And the good thing is that it is open until sahur.

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