Tuesday, October 2, 2007

the faces of ramadan

I have the amazing good fortune to be in Istanbul during Ramadan. The best part about it is the fact that it draws people from all over the country (as well as all over the world) to the city to celebrate and break the fast together.

I expected to see continued diversity here---but its more and better than I could have imagined. There are punk rock chicks and women in full burkas. There are fashionistas and women wearing house dresses. The most commonly odd thing to see is women wearing a fashionable headscarf around their heads---full faces showing---with the ends tucked deep into the neckline of heavy winter coats. Its easily in the high seventies. Comfortable but not cool. I saw one woman today in a black burka, only her eyes exposed, who was walking around the square across from Hagia Sofia looking like a bird about to take flight. I figured out immediately that she was airing her pits. Seriously, I was sweating just observing her.

There are many many more men in the streets generally than women. I think its because fewer women come out. Also I imagine plenty of people are trying to conserve energy between sun up and sun down. The idea of no liquids is enough to make anyone want to nap through the longest part of the afternoon.

Theres a huge street fair going on at sunset well into the night. This is where the Muslims---locals and foreigners alike---are breaking their fasts for the most part. Its enormous and overwhelming and it smells delicious everywhere you turn. Istanbul is a fascinating city---more diverse, more new meets old, East meets West, tradition meets industrial boom than any city I know. The faces of Ramadan are the faces of these dichotomies, the faces of the future of Islam.

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