Yesterday was my last day of work until September, 1. From the amount of tearful goodbyes and full-body hugs, you`d think we were saying goodbye for a year, not for a month. And since we are not going anywhere this year, my goodbyes in particular were a lot less dramatic. However, seeing as how we won’t see each other for a month, it was nice to get together with my colleagues at an Iftar Dinner, organized for our School of Foreign Languages staff and their staff.
What is Iftar?
Iftar is an evening meal that ends the fast during Ramadan. Ramadan or Ramazan is the ninth month of Islamic calendar and Muslims all over the world fast during this time. Every day, the fast lasts from sunrise to sunset and that means abstaining from food, drink (even water), smoking and being intimate. This year Ramadan began in the evening of June 28 and will end on July 28. The fact that Ramadan fell on the month of July means that there are as many as 17 hours between the last meal of the day called Suhoor, which is taken just before dawn at around 3 am, and the first meal of the day, Iftar, which takes place around 8 p.m.
To help people wake up for Suhoor, there are special drummers walking up and down the streets. Although several of my friends reported being woken up by the drums, the closest I came to seeing them is on billboards around the neighborhood.
Kayseri being a conservative city, the majority of people here observes the practice of fasting. It’s never more apparent as just before and during Iftar. We live next to a very busy road and we hear the roar of traffic pretty much all the time. Except for when it’s almost time for Iftar. The road is deserted and completely silent. There’s an occasional car speeding by, hurrying to get to the dinner table at home or at a restaurant. Public transport services are temporarily suspended. Most restaurants offer Iftar specials and set the tables well in advance, so that as soon as Iftar starts, eating can be commenced. Although in this hot summer time, the first priority is hydrating.We’ve taken sever walks during Iftar, marveling at deserted streets and the silence, punctuated by the clatter of cutlery on plates and observed people sitting in street cafes, raising water glasses to their lips on one almost choreographed motion, simultaneously refilling their glasses and sighing in quiet content as they set the glasses down and move on to the first course of their meal, usually soup.
Yesterday we were in a mall when Iftar time came. The mall, almost unbearably crowded just minuted ago, rapidly became empty and quiet as the announcement on the PA came, saying the Iftar has started and wishing everyone Afiyet Olsun. (Afiyet Olsun is loosely translated as Bon Apetite, but it is used much more commonly than the latter, before every meal, but can also be heard after a meal, especially if you thank someone for a meal). Every restaurant in the food court had tables set for special Iftar menus, the only exception being fast food joints. In shops, shop assistants were sitting down to meals at makeshift tables and waiters and chefs from places not serving Iftar meals take turns to eat. It’s truly amazing to watch this busy city turn quiet and empty. Walking around an empty mall or mute, deserted streets you can almost imagine yourself a character in a post-apolitical movie.
During the last week of Ramadan, and the last working week for many instructors, the university organized an Iftar meal for us – us being the staff of the School of Foreign Languages of our university. We were invited with our families and it was lovely to see my colleagues with their children, spouses and/or parents. The meal was served at our faculty canteen, and as everything that comes out of that kitchen, delicious. A
A special thank you goes out to my colleagues Justin and Faruk for making many jokes about dates. Traditionally, dates are served during Iftar as Prophet Muhammad is said to have broken his fast with three dates. Justin had to sit on a date for about 5 minutes before we got that he was miming, “I`m on a date,” and Faruk gleefully joined in, biting into a date and giggling to himself as he said things like, “I`m on my first date”, “My first date went well” , “So far I`m really enjoying my first date”. A quick internet search provided a wealth of Iftar-date memes, so on this cheerful note I`m ending this post and bid you all adieu – until the next post.