International students living in the Turkish capital of Ankara observe and experience Ramadan away from the comforts and traditions of home as they recall memories from their motherlands with family and close friends.
Muslims fast from dawn to dusk to mark the holy month. For many, it is a time to come together with friends and family to have iftar, the fast-breaking meal.
“I did not find an opportunity to observe Ramadan back in Somalia with my family, but after some time, I start feeling at home here,” Abukar Sadi Mohamud said about the last eight years.
“I think like I have a family here in Asma Kopru International Student Association in Ankara and I do not feel alone. Almost every year, I have enjoyed Ramadan there with dozens of overseas students from different customs,” said the Ph.D. student in Business Administration at Yildirim Beyazit University.
Sadi Mohamud said if it is the first year and spending Ramadan alone for the first time, you might face various hurdles.
He said fasting in Türkiye is very difficult because the length of the fast is long compared to Somalia. It is around 15 or 16 hours some years.
Despite missing home, he said he is enjoying the opportunity to taste different dishes. “You should turn the difficulty into opportunity. I do not feel foreign in Türkiye. I adapted to everything.”
Mohamud said being away from your family is “another challenge during Ramadan. I am missing a lot of things back in my home country, especially our traditional food which we do not have here.”
During Ramadan, a time for charity and spiritual reflection, Muslims spend their time and energy on worship, reciting the Quran, communal prayer and, of course, fasting.
Danish Punjabi, who is pursuing his post-doctoral research in Ankara at Yildirim Beyazit University, is observing his second Ramadan in Türkiye.
Observing and experiencing the holy month in Türkiye is different from my country, said Punjabi, from Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
“I saw some of the differences here. Like, even though apparently it seems that some people do not fast but yeah, so many people fast because I saw that restaurants in so many other places where people come in rampantly during the normal period of the year, but during Ramadan, it’s not that much crowded. So yeah, it’s good. It’s different for me,” he said.
In many cultures, community iftars are hosted to break the fast with family and friends. Punjabi said he sees a lot of engagement in the activity like for Iftar and everything in Türkiye.
“They give also food packets offered by the government. That is good to see. One day, when I was walking, there was a minibus and they gave me that packet and said you can have it. I said what is it for. They said you can break your fast with it. It is for Iftar specifically for this Iftar. So, this was different for me,” he added.
About the difficulties of cooking meals every day, he said: “It is difficult obviously because when you’re with your family, they prepare everything even though you can help them get some stuff. But most of the thing is done by your parents, your mother, especially. When you are away from your house, you have to do stuff yourself. And as a student, I understand this, and it makes sense.”
Mechanical engineering student at Ostim Technical University in Ankara, Muhammad Sulaiman Muhammad said: “This is the first time that I am observing Ramadan away from my country and family. I came to Türkiye just three months ago.
“Normally, back in my country, before iftar, we come together with friends and family to break the fast,” said Muhammad from Nigeria. “In Ankara, that is my first time eating together with foreigners. Trying to understand the culture is good also.”
He praised Turkish cuisine and said Türkiye and Nigeria have very different food cultures and tastes. “What we are eating in Nigeria is different than what you are eating in Türkiye during Ramadan.”
Regarding the emotional aspect of spending Ramadan away from home, medical student Omer Krasniqi from Kosovo said: “I was shocked. I have never seen in my country a lot of people having iftar at the same time.”
Residing in a student housing facility in Asma Kopru, first-year Krasniqi from Yildirim Beyazit University said, “Here you can see more than a hundred people during iftar at the same gathering. This is good to see.
“During Ramadan, being in Türkiye is really awesome. This is my third Ramadan in Ankara. Especially, having the iftar with people from different backgrounds is really awesome,” he said.