Wow. A whole 29 days that has just flown past, although I can remember the days I have sat and watched the clock slowly ticking. Waking up in a morning and counting how many hours left until Iftar, and staring at the clock on my phones home screen waiting for our cue to eat- no call to prayer in the UK, remember.
I can safely say each day is getting hotter in Istanbul. Today is known as ‘Arefe Gunu’ meaning the eve of Bayram- sort of like Xmas Eve. People are busy preparing their homes for the expected visitors, streets are bustling with last minute shopping for clothes, and especially for sweets and chocolates. This holiday is also know in Turkey as ‘şeker bayramı’, which translates as ‘sugar festival’. It is common for young children to knock on doors and wish the occupants a happy holiday, and in return they are given sweets- usually the small hard boiled fruit variety. Visitors are offered the finest chocolates which usually come decorated in luxury boxes, trimmed with ribbon. A splash of lemon cologne is offered in their hands, then usually the youngest of the family, or the daughter of the house offers the chocolates. As the daughter in law, this was my job for many Bayram, but I have since retired and let my daughters steal the limelight instead.
Today I helped my mother in law clean the house ready for the guests arriving tomorrow. Almost in unison, the women living on the streets were hanging out of windows wafting rugs and cleaning windows. The heat was intense. We hung washing out and it was completely dry less than 30 minutes later. Trying to hover rugs that are deeper than the Atlantic is a feat at the best of times, never mind when it’s 30+ degrees outside without a sniff of a breeze.
I began to feel dizzy. I didn’t want to break my fast on the last day, but I didn’t want to end up in A&E either. Once again, I found myself with my head stuck in the freezer, only for my mother in law to panic that it would break as it would need to work twice as hard in the heat. It didn’t matter that I was about to pass out, as long as her peas didn’t defrost.
As with every day this week, the kids were getting to each other. I could feel the sweat seeing out of my pores and imagined hell to be something along those lines. I imagine they don’t let children into hell, so it would be a lot less quieter anyway. I made a split second decision to take the kids to the inlaws summer house in a small resort a couple of hours away from Istanbul. I had no chance of getting a ticket the day before Bayram, but as soon as I knew we would be going tomorrow, my spirits lifted and I was back on track again.
I treated myself to a hair do early evening. It is tradition to dress up on Bayram, with children getting new clothes, and people generally making an extra effort. By the time I had finished in the hairdressers and met up with a friend, there was less than one hour remaining. That last hour of Ramadan was quite possibly the hardest 60 minutes of the past month.
I made it home with not long to spare. We gathered at the table and the prayers that filled the room from the TV were mind blowing. The month had reached its climax. We were praying for others to accept our good deeds and to keep the promise until judgment day. We asked for forgiveness for all we had done wrong, we prayed that our fast would be accepted and that we would love to see another Ramadan.
The call to pray began. That was it. Ramadan was over for another year and I couldn’t help but cry. I couldn’t believe the inner strength I had found from nowhere. On the days I was so ready to give up, Allah guided me through. I have never felt so connected to my faith as much as I have this past month, and I was proud. I lasted through the long days in England, and the hot days in Turkey. I resisted temptation and I have completed another Ramadan. It isn’t anything that I shouldn’t be doing as a Muslim anyway, but I was happy that say that I had done it nonetheless.
We ate our meal and my Grandmother-in-law recited prayers as we listened intently. We prayed for the souls of those we had lost and that our fasting may be offered up to them. We prayed for health, peace and happiness. I particularly emphasised the Amen on the peace part. A mother of three kids can never have too much peace.
It is tradition for the children to have a shower on the eve of Bayram as it is believed they are cleansed, and it helps them to grow. The kids were showered one by one and dressed in fresh pyjamas. Tomorrow when we wake, we will have a breakfast together as a family, then we will get dressed in our best attire and wait for visitors. The children kiss the hands of the elders and place them on their foreheads, and in return they are usually given money from close family members. My father in law will still give me money every year when I kiss his hand ☺️. The day will be filled with love and laughter, and the festival lasts for three days, with the next Ramadan taking place on 6th June 2016.
I would like to thank every single person who has taken the time to comment, to write, to stop me in the school playground and tell me how much they have enjoyed reading my posts. People from as far as USA and New Zealand have read my blog, with it having been read by over 2000 people at the last count. I hope I have managed to keep you entertained over the past month, but more than anything, I hope that I have changed some people’s perceptions of not only Ramadan, but of Islam too.
Until next year….
The blonde Brit at Ramadan