The peace and calm of the night is punctuated by the loud echo of drums as the Ramadan drummers take over the streets of Turkey. It’s time to wake up for suhoor. Sleepy little children leave the comfort of their beds and come out to catch a glimpse of the drummers and listen to their soulful songs. The ritual, which can be traced as far back as the days of the Abbasid Caliphate, was common in many other Arab countries as well. Now in the age of technology its revival is threatened, but it’s still welcome in some neighborhoods here and there, mostly in rural areas.
This nightly ritual is not the only tradition that makes the holy month exceptional for the Turks. Like most other Muslims, they too have a special connection to food during Ramadan. Their grand iftar spreads show that old traditions go hand in hand with new trends. Classic Turkish recipes garner just as much love as those with modern touches. For instance, some items such as pide (a type of flat bread) and gullac (a dessert made of special pastry sheets and milk), are extremely popular during this month.
As for suhoor, most prefer to have breakfast food for this pre-dawn meal. Eggs cooked in various ways are accompanied by different kinds of bread, cheese, and of course tea. An egg dish similar to shakshouka called menemen is a favorite, as it makes for a light, nutritious meal. Another thing that helps to keep them energized throughout the day is compote, which is a sweet drink obtained by boiling fruits like cherries, and flavored using spices like cloves.
Ramadan is without doubt a time in which food is celebrated with lots of love and dedication. However, the real feast in Turkey appears after Ramadan, when they prepare for the Eid festivities with every kind of sweet delicacy imaginable. In fact, it is known as Bayram of Sweets or Holiday of Sweets. You’ll see tables laden with plates of baklava, Turkish delight, gullac and kunefe…it’s a food lover’s heaven!
Words by Fathmath Sadha