Destination Guide to Turkey
Religions in Turkey
Islam is the main religion in Turkey, with approximately 98% of the population being Muslim (predominantly Sunni). Turkey is a secular state with complete freedom of religion and beliefs. Islam is not the state religion, as it was under the Ottoman Empire rule for 600 years. Its status as such was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1924. Although the government and other social structures are not based on Islamic principles, you will find that Islam maintains some influence on society, especially in more rural areas.
The Islamic religious day is Friday; however Saturday and Sunday make up the official weekend – this becomes apparent with an influx of ‘City Turks’ visiting the coast. You will hear the Imam (priest) calling the ezan (prayer) five times a day, firstly at sunrise and lastly after sunset. Feel free to visit a mosque during your stay; however women must cover their heads, arms and legs and it would not be appropriate to visit at prayer times.
The main religious event in the Muslim calendar is Ramadan (2nd Sept- 1st Oct in 2008). This is a time of fasting Prayers, charity-giving, and self-accountability. The fast starts each day at sun-rise (first mosque call) and ends at sunset, with a special meal known as ‘Iftar’. At the end of Ramadan there is a 3-day feast, called ‘Seker Bayrami’ or sugar festival and you may find you are offered sweets during this time when you go into people’s houses, shops or even taxis!
The other main festival is ‘Kurban Bayrami’ (Eid). This is celebrated 2 months after the end of Ramadan. Often at this time a goat will be slaughtered for the family, with the excess being given to the poor.