Ask Mehmet: Ramazan night life

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@us.af.mil.

Mehmet, we know that the Muslims fast during daytime during Ramazan and there is almost nothing happening. Are there any special events at night during Ramazan?

The first thing that comes to mind is the television. Most of the TV stations, but primarily the state-run Turkish Radio Television (TRT) Cooperation, air special programs all night long during the holy month. Of course, as you'd expect, in addition to entertainment programs, most of the programs are about Islam, fasting, the holy figures of the religion and God. A popular shadow theatre-game called "Karagoz" and other children's films are aired, too.

In the evenings, after breaking the fast, people mostly go to the mosque for the special teravih prayer done only during this holy month.

Some people invite their friends to break their fast together. It's customary for the housewife to show her talent and skills in cooking and preparing good food. After such meals, the group will stay together for most of the night to talk about religion and daily life. Another tradition is that some wealthy people invite poor people to their fast-breaking dinners as well.

Another way of getting together for fast breaking is going to large hotels or restaurants which serve special iftar (fast-breaking dinner) meals.

I love to eat ekmek (Turkish bread), and it seems to get better and better. At first there were only two types of bread, and now there's a lot. Are there more choices just during Ramazan?

I share your enthusiasm about ekmek, and it's the main reason why some Turkish men have a little belly.

I wish we had more choices of ekmek all year round, but normally Ramazan brings out the culinary skills in our bakers.

The specially baked ekmek during Ramazan is called Ramazan pidesi. Those are the round breads with sesame seeds on it you see. There are some bakers who prepare it with more seeds on it.

Many people would like to have the special and newly baked, steaming Ramazan pidesi in the evening, so you see some long lines in front bakeries at about 7 p.m. daily.

I know this is the fasting month for the Muslims, but I see some Turkish nationals eat and drink during the day. Don't all Muslims fast this month? What is the percentage of Turkish people fasting during Ramazan?

Muslims should fast during the month of Ramazan, but Turkey is a secular state and people are free to choose their religion and the way of worship. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the constitution, so no one can be forced to fast.

Travelers, people who are ill, pregnant women, children and soldiers at war are exempt from fasting.

According to a survey done by Turkey's State Statistics Institution, 65 percent of Turkish people fast regularly during Ramazan, 20 percent fast from time to time and 15 percent never fast.

Mehmet, I have seen a huge tent set up by D-400 highway on the way to the airport. What was the purpose for that tent?

The tent is set up by the Seyhan District Municipality of Adana to serve food for the fast-breaking people in the evenings during the month of Ramazan. Every evening four different dishes are cooked and served. The food is not only served to those breaking the fast, the food is also given to poor and needy people. The structure can accommodate 500 people at once.

Almost every municipality in Turkey sets up a Ramazan tent every year. For the most part city funds are used to run these tents, but donations from wealthy Muslims also help cover the cost.

As you can see, in addition to the normal daily activities, we have many special events Muslims in Turkey can share with family and friends after breaking the fast during Ramazan.