Travelling in Ramadan: Short Stories From Macedonia, Turkey and Spain

Ramadan is translated into different vocations at different times and places. During the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and Sahaba, from what was narrated to us, Ramadan was a journey of spiritual fulfilment and a contest of good deeds.

During the Ottoman Empire, sultans and pashas used to open their doors, castles, and royal palaces for an open invitation to whoever wanted to attend their iftaars so they could also have the opportunity to be close to them.

A remarkable example of this was Melek Ahmed Pasha (1650-51), who used to open the door of his home to the public every Monday and Friday to share iftaar and listen to the Quran from the best reciters at the time. At the same time, he used to donate or give presents such as jewellery, clothes, and other precious gifts while greeting them after iftaar and thanking them for having accepted his invitation.

If you want to taste and embrace Ramadan in different colours and tastes, you must combine fasting and travelling which will lead you to an awesome experience.

My intention here is not to advise young people to start a journey on the first day of Ramadan and finish it for Eid but to discover this precious month from a different perspective, by experiencing Ramadan in other countries.

Here are some of my stories of experiencing Ramadan in 3 different areas.

Ramadan in Macedonia

I have been told that Ramadan in Macedonia was an amazing experience. That the atmosphere can be felt better while you’re there better than my own home country of Albania. Through the invitation of my friend and the insisting of her family, I decided to make this a reality.

The first night, due to the fatigue from the trip, we decided to have iftaar at home and that was literally the first and the last night we did so.

Every other night, women-only-iftar-parties were organised by different associations, business women, and also mothers and housewives who had extremely big hearts. Before and after iftaar it was common to take part in meetings or seminars. I was impressed by the fact that every night they visited each-other’s homes where they continued conversations around Islamic lectures as well as other topics in regards to religion.

Women used to attend Taraweeh, and after that, we would drink tea somewhere before going to other places to wait for suhoor. This didn’t seem out of place as it would in my own home country, because the streets were very crowded even though it was after midnight. It seemed as though, during this month, men forgot all kinds of prejudices about the women hanging out so late. Women were almost free from any responsibility to the family, and men didn’t actually mind it.

Sometimes I used to wonder: What do they do about cooking?

Well, during the blessed month it wasn’t a big deal. They were invited to friends’ houses for iftaar or to visit restaurants.

I used to envy women in Macedonia. They were the rulers of Ramadan.

Andalusia (a region in Spain)

The first time I experienced Ramadan in a European country was in Malaga, Spain. As in any other tourist destination, the streets of Malaga are crowded with people walking around. You could only feel that it was still Ramadan when the sun went down and you were near the bazaar with immigrants – mostly Muslims, of course. You notice people with bottles of water and a packet of dates near their stalls. But in restaurants you do not see any “iftaar menus” or any Muslims rushing for Taraweeh. It reminded me more or less of the atmosphere in Albania.

I tried to find some places with halal-or kosher-or vegan- food, but in the attempt to do so, I heard the adhaan for Maghrib and take a taxi to the nearest (also the only!) only mosque in town. We broke our fast with water and dates.

I rushed to take the bus, which was taking ages to come, and decided I would pick up the first taxi approaching by. No taxis on the horizon. In despair and hunger, almost losing hope, a couple in a car stopped close to me. They recognised me being a tourist in trouble and offered help. They were just having pizza for iftaar as last moment solution until they get home for a proper meal.

I had a short chat with this lovely family. I will never forget the little moment of joy, the noise of the children in the back seat with me, the aroma of seafood pizza, the taste of the slice, the silhouette of the palm trees which reminded me of my own home town.

Ramadan in Turkey

In Turkey, Ramadan is characterised by brotherhood, diversity, unity, solidarity and especially humanity.

The tradition of generosity during the Ottoman Empire seems to have been inherited even nowadays. For the first time, I experienced the feeling of sitting at a table with hundreds of other Muslims. Where the poor, the traveller, the muhajir, the student, the professor, the employee of the administration, the mayor, the deputy, even in special cases, the Prime Minister, shares the same atmosphere and the same food

Walking on the streets of Istanbul meant getting drunk from the aroma of the different spices. In Taksim or other Arab-majority neighbourhoods, the smell of saffron, cumin, and other spices invites you to enjoy Palestinian falafels, Uzbek Pilavi, Uyghur manti and Syrian or Lebanese sweets. In this area of the city, the Yemeni coffee is so provocative that you cannot stand to be there without having a sip.

The great bounty of experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim country means that I’m constantly reminded of the sound of neighbours knocking at the door to offer traditional dishes for iftaar and it is a blessing, one I’d never be able to get back home.

For a long time now, I considered Turkey my “home”, and I wanted to be back for Eid, so I took the first plane available.

I can still hear the echo of the announcement from the pilot telling us that it is time to break our fasts. And when you approach the airport, you hear the captain’s voice: “Our team wishes Happy Eid to all our passengers”, which gives a pleasant atmosphere to the incoming festive days.

So if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to travel during Ramadan. You never know what blessings you’ll experience.

By Nada Dosti
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