Visitors see great atmosphere in Istanbul during Ramadan
Anadolu Agency meets foreign guests who are seeing the city in a whole new light during the Muslim holy month

Ramadan in Istanbul, which brings thousands of people together to pray and eat during the Muslim holy month, has created a "great atmosphere" in the city, foreign guests believe.

Anadolu Agency spoke to visitors whose time in Istanbul gave them the opportunity to observe the city during Ramadan.

"The atmosphere is perfect," says Alexandra Ventsenostseva, 27, who came to visit with her friend from Moscow for four days.

"There are a lot of people sitting on the ground eating with their families, which is really nice," Alexandra says, pointing to the crowded family gatherings especially during iftar meals.

Having never tried fasting before, Alexandra believes that she could do it "if there is a motivation and a big goal".

Alexandra claims there are around 1.5 million Muslims in Moscow, who make up nearly 15% of the population, and says:

"There are some Muslim people around where we live in Moscow, and they are practicing Ramadan as well, but it is very different from here. In our country, it is not like something fantastic, it is very restricted."

However, one person who has tried fasting before is 72-year-old Linda Dian Miller, from Michigan in the United States.

"I didn't think I would be able to do that, but it was a good experience because I could control myself," she said. Linda tried it for three days, which she said was "challenging".

Her visit in Istanbul is a long one, because she has a Turkish daughter-in-law, Nazan Burson, and two grandsons, 11-year-old Ali and 8-year-old Kaya.

Linda, a retired teacher, will be attending several iftar meals during Ramadan.

"It's inspiring to see lots of people come together to support the same tradition. This would not happen in the U.S.," she says. "The U.S. feels more diverse than Turkey. I'm noticing people share more traditions here than they do in my country."

Nazan, a mathematics teacher living in Colorado, says in recent years they are mostly in Turkey during Ramadan as it coincides with the summer holiday.

"I have spent the last few Ramadans here in Turkey, which definitely is a different experience than being in a non-Muslim country."

Nazan, however, says does not love the idea of people changing their life styles in Ramadan and continuing in the same way afterwards, such as in continuing to drink alcohol.

"I don't think they benefit from Ramadan on a spiritual level," she says.

The relative lack of custom in the city's otherwise bustling restaurants is something which struck one group of Chinese friends.

"I know just a little bit about Ramadan: the Muslims do not eat and drink," says Chen Jingwem, 22, adding: "Maybe they do not drink alcohol so much."

It is their first visit to Istanbul and indeed their first visit to a Muslim country, which Chen Jingwem says "is totally different from ours, because our community has basically no religion".

They have never tried any type of fasting before, but 20-year-old Chen Baichao thinks it could be done "if there are some reasons which would push me to do so".

Surprised to hear that there are special iftar menus at restaurants during Ramadan, Hou Jingyi, 22, and Huang Kairam, 22, say they would attend a fast-breaking meal during their two-week visit in Istanbul.

Istanbul also offers people free iftar meals in special tents which can be found in almost every district of the city.

Uskudar on the city’s Asian shore, for example, will be serving iftar for 7,000 people daily in a tent established on the seaside, while in the European district of Zeytinburnu an estimated 50,000 people will be provided with iftar meals over 30 days.

In the historic Sultanahmet Square, around 12,000 people have been eating and praying together to enjoy the Ramadan spirit from the first day.

"I respect very much that people can do it," says Raquel Caro, 24, who made her way from Germany to visit Istanbul. "I cannot imagine myself doing it. With the heat and everything it would be too hard for me to achieve it."

That is why she and her Turkish-origin boyfriend were "trying not to eat and drink so much in public for respect, except when there are many people drinking and eating outside".

In Germany, where Islam is the second-largest religion after Christianity and the Muslim population makes around 5 percent of the total population "there is no such a lively atmosphere of Ramadan [there] like in Istanbul," she adds.

Last Modified: 2015-06-26 11:26:16
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