Out of nowhere, the sounds of drums permeate through the air. Houses all over the place start to light up, and the scent of breads beckons, as if it is signaling people to partake of it.
It is three o’clock in the morning here in Ankara, and it is the first day of Ramadan. Only the sound of the drums outside have reminded me that I should wave up for the sahur meal, which is the pre-dawn meal that accompanies every single day during this holy month. In simple terms, Muslims are to abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset, and are supposed to keep away from foul language and unacceptable behavior as well.
For the pre-dawn meal, I wake up Khaleel so that he can help me prepare some food, while Partick is having a deep sleep. Our menu for the day is composed of bread, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, tea, and water. At least, I’m thankful that we are fortunate enough to have these dishes in our kitchen, for quite a good number of people don’t have a lot, believe it or not.
Afterwards, we put the dirty dishes and utensils into the dishwasher, we wash ourselves, take our ritual ablutions, and then we wait patiently for the azan to be called so that we can pray the morning prayer before going back to sleep.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the call to prayer is sounded. We wait for it to finish, then we pray promptly and then we go back to sleep.
We say welcome to Ramadan under our breaths.
Five hours later, I wake up, knowing that I need to return the books that I have borrowed from Middle East Technical University, which is 45 minutes away from the place that I’m staying.
Even though it is just eight in the morning, the sun shines very brightly, and along with it the dry, hot weather. However, the wind blows from the east every now and then, making the hot summer weather of Ankara look like a walk in the park.
The streets are empty, and I assumed that people should be at their homes right now on a Saturday like this, either sleeping or watching television with their families inside their apartments.
I board the subway to school, and then I started to think about this year’s Ramadan. Thoughts like “this would be hard”, “the food will be nice later”, and “it would be tiring” started to ring in my head like bells clamoring for attention. However, I did not pay any attention to it, because I know that this month is not just for the stomach and the mouth; it is a month for the mind and the heart to contemplate and to feel the realities of this world.
As always, each day from dawn to sunrise here in Turkey ranges from 16-19 hours, depending on which side of the country one is residing. However, if one is already accustomed to it (and one keeps being busy doing something; ironically, this is one of the most effective ways to kill away the time), then the time should just go away like a silent breeze.
After boarding two trains, embarking on a shuttle bus and walking for ten minutes, I reach the library with my books inside my sling bag. The trees inside the university make sure that it is always relaxing and refreshing despite the summer weather.
I return the books to the clerk, then I immediately go to the nearby computer lab to surf the Net and try to find some ideas for my writing, as well as to play some browser games. Not the best way to spend the day, but I find nothing to do in this weather.
Time passes by, and by the time I finished my work, it is already 5 in the afternoon. One of our Turkish friends invited us for iftar, which is basically the fast-breaking meal that occurs after sunset.
Three and a half hours to go before sunset.
I go the same way I went before, back to the house. Within an hour or so, I tell Khaleel and Patrick, another one of my friends, to change clothes and prepare to move out.
Anyone can tell you that having a meal during sunset in Ramadan is one of the best things about the month. It is not just about the cuisine; it is also about the moments and the little talk that one shares with friends and acquaintances in the table.
When I made sure we were all fit to go, we went out with happy smiles in our faces.
Not having food and water for 18 hours does not matter at all if one is reminded of three things: Firstly, this month is a time for worship and contemplation for one’s self-improvement. Secondly, that this period is a perfect way to remind ourselves that there are lots of people who are less fortunate, and whom we should extend a helping hand. Finally, and probably one of the most important things about this month, is that one learns to improve one’s bonds, whether it be with family, friends, or simply the odd pedestrian on the road.
The first day of Ramadan is about to be over.
And I can say with confidence that it has ended…in a happy and sweet note.