Ramazan started this morning, and when I was told that the "Ramazan Davulcusu" would walk around the neighborhoods at daybreak beating drums to wake people up in time for Sahur, the morning feast before the day of fasting, I suspected that was probably a quaint tradition that lived on villages, but not in cosmopolitan Istanbul.
Since double-sided drums are being sold at the local Carrefour, I shouldn't have been surprised when, at 4 am this morning, about five young guys walked all around the neighborhood beating their drums and singing Ramazan carols. Um, 30 days of 4 am wake up calls with drums? Sorry I'll be missing that!
I have other fond Ramadan (Ramazan is the word in Turkish) memories:
In Azerbaijan, I was traveling in the regions with a young staffer who was fasting. We stopped to meet with the head of the regional government and the police chief and other assorted criminals in Goycay, the pomegranate capital of the known universe. It was a typical Azeri meal with multiple courses served underneath the pomegranate trees at a wedding palace, with ample vodka and complicated toasting. The two people at the table who were fasting sat quietly while plate after plate of lula kabob and fish shashlyk was passed around the table.
The local ex-comm began the toasts. He started by toasting the beautiful women at the table (pretty much me), the martyrs, those who couldn't be with us because they are dead -- all the usual suspects. He finished up by offering a toast to those at the table who were fasting for Ramadan. That pretty much sums up Azerbaijan for me, right there.
Last year, I was flying from Kabul to Dubai at iftar time (when the fast is broken, at sunset). The flight attendants handed out plates of stringy mutton and rice, accented with raisins and dates. Most passengers just stared it (so did I, but for different reasons). As the sun set over the empty dryness of the desert, the Ariana pilot announced that, since we were flying over Iran, fasters were obligated to wait to break the fast until Iftar cannons in Iran were fired. A few minutes later, the pilot told passengers they could eat.
So far, Ramazan in Ukraine has gone largely unremarked upon, except for this nugget. The meal on AeroSvit (an enemy combatant in one of the worst cases of FSU rage in which I have ever engaged) had a little tag with a pig with a line through it. "How atypically sensitive," I thought. Then I looked at the meal. Now, it could be the case that the Ukrainians (or, more likely, the Turks) have learned to simulate ham absolutely perfectly -- identical in taste, appearance and texture. But more likely, Aerosvit served a plate of ham to a bunch of Muslims during Ramazan.
Ramazan bayramınızı kutlar, nice mutlu bayramlar dilerim!