First impressions

I arrived in Istanbul on id al-fitr, the last day of Ramadan. Since Ramadan is a month of fasting, I figured I’d be landing in time for the biggest party of the year. Not so. The feast day, called Little Bayram here, is a time to make respectful visits to distant relatives, and feasting is strictly optional.

Greater Bayram (in Arabic, Id al-adha, Feast day of Sacrifice) will be at the end of November this year and sounds much more exciting. It involves slaughtering sheep. Unfortunately, I risk being disowned if I don’t go home for Thanksgiving, though now that I think of it, my brother Robert might be up for a ritual sheep slaying…

Istanbul is more religious than I thought it would be. Lots of women are covered up – more by far than there were fifty or even twenty years ago, according to my host’s mother. My host is my brother’s friend’s ex-boyfriend’s friend. He grew up in Turkey but went to the US for college, which gives him peculiar bicultural tastes. He hates beer but he likes Family Guy. He expects his Mom to cook at home but he’ll cook to impress an American girl (a Turkish girl would consider a man cooking for a woman heresy). Like a European man, he knows how to dress; like an American he thinks it’s ok to wear sweatpants in public.

No matter where I go in the city, the call to prayer stops me in my tracks five times a day. It doesn’t seem to cast the same spell over the Istanbul natives, which is understandable as they’ve heard it every day of their lives. I wonder if I’ll live in this city long enough for the call to lose its exoticism. I hope so.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *