When in Rome………….or in this case Turkey?

The saying goes “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

Well the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan started yesterday.  For those that don’t know – people observing Ramadan will fast from dawn to sunset.   they don’t eat, drink or smoke during these hours – they are not allowed to indulge in sexual relations during the fasting hours and are supposed to avoid impure thoughts, jealousy and other undesirable emotions and behaviours.

Turkey is an interesting country and unlike it’s Middle eastern neighbours everything carries on as normal.  In some countries the working day is restricted and people can sleep and stay indoors and rest during the fast – in Turkey it’s the height of the tourist season at the moment and some of the people fasting are not only fasting from 4.15 am until 8.30pm – they are working a full day often outside in extreme temperatures.  Many people choose not to fast but to instead give up something for Ramadan – such as alcohol or smoking and most will give money to charity or feed a poor family.

Sleep is disturbed by the arrival of the Ramadan drummers – not strictly necessary in these days of alarm clocks and mobile phone but still they come to wake people up to eat before dawn.  At night out local council has the Mosque call linked to the local tannoy system so it can be heard really loudly everywhere and they also fire a cannon when it is time for ItharIfthar (the meal at sunset) .

For many years and many reasons I have fasted during Ramadan – this year the extreme heat and some health problems mean that I am unable to.  I have woken up at 3.45am both mornings and was sad last night that I was not having an Ifthar meal to break my fast.   For me Ramadan has always been a really special time of year – I love the discipline, the food, the sense of belonging and I use the time to think about my life – set aims and goals and make decisions about what I want from the next 12 months.   But although I am not fasting – I won’t be drinking any alcohol for 30 days and will be offering my support in small ways to friends and neighbours who are fasting – it may be just cooking an Ifthar meal so that they don’t have to – it’s hard to prepare food and smell it cooking when you can’t taste it or eat it for several hours.

Now I live in a fairly traditional Turkish area.  Until recently I was the only foreigner.  This is an area where people keep chickens, many of the women are covered and the houses are not modern villas and apartments but mostly more traditional houses.  This is an area where us ladies don’t hang our under garments on washing lines in case someone other than our husbands see them.    There is about 100 metres away a lovely shiny new apartment complex now with a big pool and many people have bought property there to rent to tourists.  It’s 1 km from the beach and a 20 minute walk in this weather is hard work.

This morning – as I was on my way to an appointment just before 9am I saw coming towards the complex a middle-aged lady in a very small bikini top and shorts that I think are called something like bum freezers.  I was so shocked I didn’t say anything to her – when in hindsight I should have stopped and politely suggested she put some clothes on before walking around outside the complex semi naked.

i’ve had some mixed responses to my outrage.  Some people agree with me whilst others think I am over reacting.  People have said that this is a tourist area and Turkey is changing and I should accept such things.  But I really don’t agree.  A bikini is fine on the beach or by the pool – how hard is it to cover up with a sarong or a long tshirt if going somewhere else?   I hate seeing topless men in restaurants in the evening too.

I’m not suggesting Turkey goes down the Egypt route and bans All inclusive hotels and tries to stop unmarried couples sleeping together in hotels but I do think that if people are visiting a Muslim country then they should show some respect for the culture and the religion.   If people want to sunbathe topless go to Spain or Greece  – don’t do it on a public beach on a Friday during Ramadan when Turkish families who aren’t fasting will be having a BBQ together and enjoying the weather.

The majority of young single Turkish men I know have come to work in a resort area because they have heard that English women are easy.  It’s a great way to practice their love skills without the need to pay a prostitute.   They would never consider marrying one – there are various competitions running in the bars – ranging from how many women can you sleep with to how many different nationalities.   The very handsome barman offering to get you another drink is probably not admiring your skimpy clothes and looking at you with love in his eyes……………. he’s totting up the commission he will earn on your cocktail bill whilst assessing how quickly he can get you into bed and whether you will be up for it on the beach.

It’s Ramadan – How are the fasting barmen supposed to not think impure thoughts if you are sitting in his bar, semi naked drinking a Slow Comfortable Screw or Sex on the Beach?

In Turkey – more clothes = more respect.   If you are visiting please be aware this is a Muslim Country – if you are way from the pool or beach area – please put some clothes on.

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