From cozy streets to cafes: Restless Ramadan nights in Istanbul

Published 29.06.2015 20:04
Updated 29.06.2015 20:19
From cozy streets to cafes: Restless Ramadan nights in Istanbul

The streets of Istanbul offer various kinds of festivities during Ramadan. While some choose to drink tea and smoke nargile at cafes with beautiful scenery, some enjoy attending iftar and sahur meals on the cozy streets of Istanbul's historic districts

Istanbul nights have become very colorful and lively since Ramadan is in the summer this year. Street squares, restaurants and cafes host families and young people until it is time for sahur (pre-dawn meal). We hit the road to see how Ramadan excitement continues until the first light of the day on both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.


Our first stop was Sultanahmet Square. Although iftar (the fast-breaking meal) is an hour away, there was a huge crowd in the square. As soon as people saw an empty spot on the grass, they laid down their blankets and begin preparing the iftar table. There were both rich and more moderate iftar tables in Sultanahmet Square, but everyone felt the same excitement and was there to share Ramadan joy together under the stars. Couples, youth and the elderly took selfies with the Blue Mosque while some groups wanted to take souvenir photos. When the square was filled with people, the spirit of sharing awoke; some invited others to their iftar tables, while some offered dates to passersby. Right at that moment, the adhan (call to prayer) was recited and everyone broke the fast in reverence.


It is late, but Feshane was still hosting an enormous crowd. The entrance to Feshane is free of charge and it serves people until sahur. All family members from 7 to 70 were shopping at the stands, attending various events held outside the building and tasting different flavors sold at the food stands. It is possible to see people who have their photos taken in costumes of the Ottoman sultans for TL 10 ($3.73) as well as people who step into the world of 3-D films for TL 5. Some spent time until sahur by sipping tea in teahouses, while some sat on the grass and ate sunflower seeds. At 11:40 p.m., Sufi music began being broadcasted throughout Feshane. Of course, when you come to Feshane, you cannot leave without entertaining yourself at the amusement park, which stays open until 2:30 a.m. University student Talha Coşkun said his peers prefer to spend time outside until sahur as Ramadan creates a different atmosphere around the city. "For iftar, we prefer Sultanahmet and Feshane for sahur," Coşkun added.EyüpOne hour is left until sahur. Small breakfast plates were being displayed in the restaurants and cafes facing the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, and sellers call people to their shop. Eyüp Sultan is the best place for sahur during Ramadan. Almost all restaurants and cafes in Eyüp are open until sahur. After 2:30 a.m., the crowd gets bigger and bigger. The Eyüp Sultan Buffet, which is open 24/7, is the most visited place in the neighborhood. The buffet sells a glass of tea for TL 1.50 and coffee for TL 3. Orhan Oğuz and Doğan Atasert, who are in charge of the buffet, cautioned us that it will not be possible to find a place to sit down and eat in the following hours. Moreover, there was a big crowd in front of the Eyüp Sultan Tomb, the restoration of which was recently finalized. People do not leave Eyüp without praying for the good soul of Eyüp Sultan.Üsküdar

The coastline of Üsküdar is hosting various festivities during Ramadan, and several buffets located on the coast are busy throughout the night. People who come to Üsküdar for sahur as well as the view of Maiden's Tower and Sarayburnu like to smoke nargile (water pipes) and play "tavla" (backgammon), while those who want to spend their one Ramadan night by breathing the fresh sea air attend a 45-minute Bosporus tour for TL 5. The cafes in Salacak are also jam-packed. However, the best places in Üsküdar for sahur are the teahouses, located right next to the municipality headquarters. There are 11 teahouses, but it is impossible to find a place to sit. Some people come here for iftar and stay until sahur.


There are various cafes near Süleymaniye Mosque. One of them is Ağa Kapısı, which opens its doors at 8:00 p.m. and closes at 2:00 a.m. The cafe only hosts people that make reservations prior to iftar. People usually come for iftar and stay until sahur time. The cafe, which features seven floors, hosts people who play backgammon, as well as smoke nargile (water pipe). The cafe is known for their six different kinds of sherbet and 670 different herbal teas. Hüsn-ü Ala Cafe is one of the cafes surrounding the Süleymaniye Mosque. The cafe serves an iftar menu for TL 95 and a sahur menu for TL 45. Accompanied by a fasıl recital, the café offers a rich sahur menu. The cafe, which features a playground for children and a small mosque, is mostly visited by women and children. Lemonade with green apple, watermelon or cucumber is the cafe's most popular drink.

At Pazarı Square

At Pazarı, which is the new hot spot of the city, is the Cihangir of the Fatih district. Some smoke nargile, some drink tea and some play reed flutes. The square is very lively; there are children playing with toys, neighbors chatting around a sculpture of a horse and people sitting in the cafes. Each cafe is different from the other; in some of the cafes, people listen to music while some just host people who want to engage in deep conversations with their friends. The square does not only host conservative people – when you listen to people around you, you can hear very different conversation topics. It is also possible to run into some well-known Turkish figures.

Sahur on the Bosphorus

Huqqa is a luxury, alcohol-free restaurant-cafe in Kuruçeşme, a popular area for nightclubs in Istanbul, which faces the Bosphorus. When you walk in, you may mainly see groups of young people, some of whom play backgammon, while others enjoy a nargile. You can break your fast there and even have your sahur there too. Alternatively, enjoy the restaurant's desserts with your family. Although Huqqa is referred to as the place for Istanbul's young and rich conservative people, it is possible to see people from all sections of society there as well.

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