Writer Münevver Alp provides much information about Ramadan in old İstanbul:
In Anatolia and Rumelia, the staples of the sahur meal were gözleme and börek. The women would knead the dough at night, and bring the gözleme and börek to the table freshly baked. In Istanbul however börek was absolutely not eaten for sahur; the sahur table contained kazandibi, çöreks, kashkaval cheese, neck meat and cold sliced tongue. One evening there would be pilaf, the next evening a type of noodle called taygan. Everyone would eat a bowl of yogurt and a bowl of noodles or rice, then, before washing their mouths and declaring their intention to fast, would have one bowl of compote and say “yarrabi sana şükürler olsun” (oh my lord thanks be to you) and declare the intent to fast that day. After declaring their intent, they would read the Koran until the morning call to prayer, perform namaz, and then go back to bed and sleep till noon.
Among the families we interviewed for examples, the foods eaten for sahur mostly consisted of leftovers from the previous evening’s iftar. The first food at sahur would be a meat and vegetable dish, followed by noodles or pilaf. Börek is also notable for its ability to keep one satisfied. The most common drinks are ayran, fruit drinks, tea and compotes.
Foods for the Feast Following Ramadan
The Feast of Ramadan, or as it is commonly known, “Sugar/Candy Feast,” is an expression of the joy at having fasted for the month of Ramadan and having gained God’s favor. At the same time it is the anniversary of the second Ramazan after the flight to Medina, during which the Prophet with his small army met the Quraishi army, many times stronger than his own in the southwest section of the city, and soundly defeated them. When the Prophet returned to Medina following this battle, the month of Ramadan had come to its end, and the fast was over. In a speech to his followers, he told them to perform a special namaz on the first day of Shawwal, which followed Ramadan, and give a certain percentage of their goods to the poor. The first Feast namaz was performed on this date.
Including the goals of reconciling those at odds, strengthening feelings of friendship and family, the Feast or Ramadan is also important as it relates to our culinary culture.
In the Ottoman Empire, the official celebration of Ramadan began during the reign of the great sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. The scholar Feridun Fazıl Tülbentçi describes the ceremony in the palace:
The Bayram (feast) occupied a very important place in the Ottoman palace and state. In the palace, the second most important ceremony after accession to the throne was Iyd-i Fıtır (Eid al-Fitr, Feast of Ramadan) and Kurban Bayramı (Feast of the Sacrifice). The ceremony began two days prior, in the second courtyard of the palace, known as the Alay Meydanı (Procession Square). The ceremony was known as the Arife Divanı or Arife Muayedesi. The Mehter band played, prayers were recited, and praise was given. As part of the protocol of the feast, the Sultan received felicitation. The ceremony was carried out with such precision that if, in a later Arife Muayedesi the Sultan himself did not emerge, the ceremony was held across from the throne with a turban placed upon it. Sultan Ahmet II did not emerge as he had pains in his feet, so he had the ceremony conducted before his turban.
On the first day of the Feast, the ceremony became more ostentatious. One the evening of the Feast, from midnight on, the outer gate of the palace was opened, and those who would participate in the felicitations would begin to arrive. When morning came, the Şeyhülislam and later, the Grand Vizier would come as well. The ceremony was quite long; the Mehter band played and cannons were fired. At the close of the greeting ceremony, the sultan would go with a great procession to Haghia Sophia or Sultan Ahmet Mosque and perform ritual prayers for the Feast.”
The people also prepared with great excitement for the Feast of Ramadan. The buying began in the second half of Ramadan; shoes, clothes and undergarments were bought for the children in particular, who were dressed anew from head to toe; and the children of close relatives and friends were not forgotten.
Especially following Kadir Gecesi (The Night of Power), the markets and bazaars filled to overflowing, with the candy shops conducting the most business; visitors during the Feast were offered candy.
In the Bayram areas, which have now begun to be forgotten, itinerant old hajjis sold sweets, sherbets, çörek and simit to the people.
As mentioned earlier, the mainstays of the Feast foods were the candies and other sweets which were offered to visitors. The sweets were generally homemade baked pastries, the most common of which were baklava, kadayıf, hurma tatlısı etc.
Along with the sweets were certain foods consumed during the Feast in particular: Chicken soup, pilav with meat and various types of börek.