Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rama Lama Ding Dong

We hadn't heard the cannon fire or the call from the neighbourhood minaret signifying that the day's fasting had come to an end, but the other passengers on our train seemed to sense the end of the day and opened up their sealed bottles of water and called for the simit-man - the simit being Turkey's unbiquitous bagel-like street food - to sell them one - quickly. Taking our cue from them, we retrieved the water bottles from our bags and opened up a package of cookies to break our fast with them on this, the first day of Ramadan - or Ramazan, as it's known here. Such is the sense of solidarity, community, and brotherhood that Ramadan instills in its observers.

Of course, fasting 'til sunset was made a whole lot more doable by having lunch four hours earlier. Yes, those frosted glasses of wheat beer and pizza we had on the terrace at Taps brew-pub in Istanbul made that last stretch of not eating and drinking
considerably less taxing.

So yes, in spite of repeated declarations that I would never 'do' another Ramadan - and having successfully kept to my word for a grand total of two Ramadans - Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I once again find ourselves in the throes of yet another month of hungry, thirsty, nicotine-deprived, sex-starved
Muslims. But this isn't Morocco - to which I offer Allah a hearty and resounding al humdullah.

But I confess that I did have my doubts: it would seem that, as in Morocco, the traditional wake-the-fuck-up pre-dawn breakfast call - is alive and well in Turkey. And whereas in our neighbourhood in Rabat, the
Last Call to Allah's All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Buffet is ushered in by a drum - albeit a jarring cacaphonous one - the dinner bell which greeted us Friday morning was decidedly less melodic. And believe me when I say that the bar was already set quite low. In Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad's words, it sounded like someone beating a plastic pail. But a very very loud one. One that could rouse me from a drug-induced sleep.

At - sweet mother of God - 3 in the goddamn morning.

But things aren't always as they seem and that's not just my sleep deprivation (it's only Day 2 of 30) mumbling incoherently talking. My first indication that Turks might observe Ramadan in - shall I say - a more unconventional if not unorthodox manner than their co-religionists in North Africa came when we were told that liquor shops wouldn't close or even limit their hours of operation during Ramadan. Of course, we dismissed such talk as the absurd tales of a fabulist. Then yesterday, we saw a number of our students sucking away on cigarettes and drinking coffees on the first morning of fasting. And no one was screaming at them. Berating them. Spitting on them.
And were there not simit-men walking up and down the aisle of our train yesterday selling their simits? Reader, they were.

And imagine our delight as we walked down Bağdat Caddesi in Istanbul taking in the sights and sounds of İstanbullus sitting outside - outside where Allah could see them! - at streetside cafés, eating and drinking - drinking alcohol no less - in the full light of day! And dear reader, it was daylight - I can swear to it. The light which enveloped these beer-drinking Ramadan iconoclasts was not the blinding light of Allah's smiting lightning bolt (or is that Zeus?), incinerating them to crispy critters but pure sunshine. Honest-to-goodness sunshine. And Allah turned a blind eye.

This is not to suggest that there aren't Turks who are strictly observing Ramadan - for whom swallowing even a globule of toothpaste is anathema - because there are. But at least they aren't ramming their views down the non-fasting throats of others - to which I offer Allah a hearty and resounding al humdullah.

This bodes well. I may actually not want to kill anyone by month's end. I just might make it through the next four weeks without the words I fucking hate Ramadan passing my lips (although I highly doubt it). So to celebrate Ramazan 2009, Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I will go out for a beer tonight - something we could never do outside of an overpriced Western hotel (indoors where we wouldn't offend observing Muslims) in Morocco during Ramadan. Once again, I offer Allah a hearty and resounding al humdullah.

Of course, that won't make tomorrow's breakfast/dinner bell any less strident and earsplitting.

At - sweet mother of God - 3 in the goddamn morning.


Snowflake said...

It seems as if your destiny is to celebrate Ramadan/zan in a Muslim-majority country. Sounds like you've found the perfect one. Are you fond of the date? (the fruit, that is)

Jillian said...

Yay! So many things I genuinely loved about Ramadan, but having people tell me not to brush my teeth in the morning (or defend their bad breath with a "but it's Ramadan!") is NOT one of them. I think I would appreciate Turkey - all the excitement of Ramadan with none of the judgement!

This Cat's Abroad said...

The lack of judgement is rather overwhelming - and this in a fairly conservative town. I came back from break to find half a dozen empty coffee cups in the wastebasket of my classroom. That *never* would have happened in Morocco.

Anonymous said...

The drummer has not been out so far!!!!
Miss K misses you b'zef!

This Cat's Abroad said...

Kisses to you as well Miss K!