Sunday, August 28, 2011

İftara davet

Amid the general hustle and bustle of a 550-plus-person-capacity ferry traveling to Istanbul on a Saturday night, a few people quietly unwrap take-out packages of food, arranging each item carefully on the plastic table in front of them and then turning their focus intently to the flat-screen TVs hanging above the boat's lounge. Onscreen, a flashing countdown clock ticks off the minute iftar, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, begins in each of Turkey's provinces, moving from east to west with the setting sun.

While cars speed down Sıraselviler Caddesi in central Istanbul, two men open up a Tupperware container on the back hood of a taxi parked at the curb, ready to share a simple meal when the evening ezan rings through the air.

On a back street in Nişantaşi, a pair of security guards scurry outside with a small table on which to lay their iftar meal in the dimly lit courtyard in front of their workplace.

Unlike in countries where dawn-to-dusk fasting is nearly mandatory, and people adjust their schedules to a more nocturnal rhythm, these small scenes in Turkey are carried out following a normal workday, next to people eating, drinking, and smoking as usual. This year, they also occurred amid increased concern about an "iftar divide" between rich and poor in the evening Ramadan meal. Though the debate could perhaps be compared to the annual appearance of pundits in the United States saying the "real meaning" of Christmas is being lost under a pile of wrapping paper and empty eggnog cups, the wrestling over whether lavish meals defeat the spiritual purpose of Ramadan also has a strong thread of social justice running through it.

Image from the program "İftara davet" on 24 Haber.

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