Istanbul is the home of more than 3000 mosques.
So, there was no wonder that each time you turn around you see at least one.
Not previously documenting if any bank or religious holiday when visiting I found myself in Istanbul in the last week of Ramadan.
A Christian like me, amidst a Muslim event is what friendship and unity means.
My God and their Allah, and your god of choice at peace and in union.
Do trust me: if planning on visiting Istanbul aim for that week.
And I will explain you why:
1. You will be able to visit mosques and any other site just as you planned, no supplementary restrictions.
Enter a mosque, enjoy the coolness, admire the beauty, the fine craftsmanship of people from hundreds of years ago. Be grateful for you being there, for you being alive. The chance to be in such a beautiful and welcoming city.
2. All the shops, restaurants and street food were opened, only slight restrictions to alcohol (but perhaps you that would want a beer perhaps can chill with a fresh lemonade or ayran)
3. It will teach you about family, peace and faith. The return to basics.
Ramadan days are fasting from sunrise to sunset for the Muslim community.
And here comes the greatness.
I was amazed how in all parks, people came silently from all over the city with all dinner related items for dinner, called Iftar.
And I said people: but all people was grouped per family.
Here you are shown what family is all about, makes you love yours more, cherish everything more.
Can you imagine hundreds of people gathered on the grass and benches, laying out dinner from frying pan to the finest tea glasses?
In such a silence that if you were blindfolded you have guessed only a handful of people being there… instead of hundreds.
I could not take my eyes from them. Each night.
I was smiling at them and smiling inside when seeing these beautiful humans.
I was happy for being with them and feeling like being accepted in their big Turkish family.
I was absorbing the peace, almost touching the good vibes they sent.
Nobody speaking loudly, nobody starring, nobody crossing any limits.
You need to give yourself this chance.
To see what faith really means, to feel what it really means.
And when in front of the Blue Mosque, when they silently prepare dinner you will hear the call for the prayer.
I don’t know your religion, but let me tell you this: when hearing the call and witnessing such a beautiful crowd you will feel that you are part of something great.
It’s something that you won’t be taught in school because it’s a thing you need to feel.
I missed and still miss the calls for prayer each day after I left istanbul.
Because for me they mean that we are not alone, that kindness is the best religion and that faith can unify people without and beyond words.
As I said in the beginning: Istanbul is the home of more than 3000 mosques.
It was my home then, and it will be my home each time I will be there.
We were “connected”.
Grateful for you, Istanbul.