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Aug 12
Since You Asked: Eating During Ramadan?

Dear Istanbul Eats,

I booked my trip to Istanbul months ago, looking forward to trying out many of your recommendations, only to realize just before leaving that I will be arriving in the middle of Ramadan! Will everything be closed during the day? Will I be harassed in the street if I’m seen eating? Will I be able to have a beer with my lunch? Thank you for your help,
G. Avur, Las Vegas, NV

Dear reader,

Thanks for your question. It’s one that we hear a lot and one that we’ve been wondering about ourselves. There’s really no hard and fast rule about Ramadan. Much of it depends on the area where you want to go to. You can be fairly sure that most of the restaurants you want to visit in Sultanahmet, Beyoglu or along the Bosphorus will be open during the day. On the other hand, spots in more traditional/conservative areas like Fatih and Eyup will likely be closed until Iftar (the break fast meal) time. Places that serve alcohol, particularly in tourist heavy areas, are still serving it during the day, so that shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, we were at a wine bar near Taksim last night that was not only serving booze at its sidewalk café but also had a chalkboard set out that was prominently advertising “Pork Sausages.” Miniskirts and minarets, as they like to say.

Many restaurants take advantage of the Ramadan period to do renovations, so that’s another thing worth considering. Also, because this year’s holiday has come so early, it’s possible that many restaurateurs are also taking their vacation now and have closed up shop for the month. Our best advice is to call ahead and see if the place you want to eat in is open. Enjoy your trip!

(photo by Cem Topcu, Wikimedia Commons)

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7 Responses to “ Since You Asked: Eating During Ramadan? ”
  1. Barbara Hopwood

    Aug 12, 2010

    My husband and I are coming to Istanbul from Australia in a couple of weeks and I am trying to find out via internet if there are any shops selling gluten free bread/biscuits and lactose free milk. Can anyone help me please.

    Barbara Hopwood

  2. Hi,
    Actually If you look for lactose free milk, i recommend you “Pinar” brand lactose free milk: PINAR DENGE LAKTOZSUZ. This is a very well-known dairy product brand in Turkey, and you can find its products -also this mentioned product- in like all of the supermarkets; Carrefour, Migros etc.and they are in like everywhere. I am sending you the link of company’s website but i am afraid english version is under construction. And i’m sure there are other brands, too. Any ways, so you can find the lactose free milk very easily and good luck with the gluten free stuff. I mean there must be gluten free products but i don’t know much about them and all i can recommend is just stick with the large supermarkets essipecially the ones in the malls.

    Enjoy your trip

  3. This person’s name can’t actually be ‘G.avur,’ can it? Such an odd relationship between the question and name. But to be more constructive in response, I’ll back up the blog and say there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about food consumption in Turkey during the day. It’s a do-as-you-will environment. My boss at work is not fasting and his wife is, for example – no one gives it a second thought.

    Once you get here and have a look around you’ll feel relieved and maybe a tiny bit silly for having been worried beforehand. I’m speaking as a non-Muslim American who has been living in Turkey (not just in Istanbul either) for a couple of years. You won’t have any problems.

  4. Just as a reassurance, in terms of the gluten free: rice is served everywhere – known as pilav – so you should be able to get your share of carbs. Incidentally rice flour is also the main thickening agent in puddings, and also the primary ingredient in güllaç, a special dessert made especially during the holy month. Have a great time!!

  5. Yeah, the name-surname combination is a bit awkward. That was the first thing I noticed about the article actually 😀

  6. Barbara Hopwood

    Aug 15, 2010

    Thank you so much for this info. I will certainly be able to find the milk. I did read recently that lactose intolerance is common in the southern part of Turkey so maybe there are other lactose free products, i.e. yoghourt. I will have a look in large supermarkets. Again thank you. Barbara

  7. this may end up being a bit off-topic, but several people I know have a sensitivity to cow milk products. It is sometimes a problem that is taken to be lactose intolerance, but when these same people use goat milk products they don’t have an issue. i guess i can hypothesise that this is an issue about the industry of cow milk (i.e. since goat milk is such a small percentage of the market in many countries, manufacturers are usually small-scale and not particularly ‘factory-like’ in their production methods), but in reality i have no idea what the reason is.

    anyway, all that was just to say that unless the lactose issue is specifically diagnosed in this way, you might be able to try a goat milk or goat cheese option while you’re in turkey. these are not difficult to find in turkey. the word goat is ‘keçi’ in turkish, and the word cow is ‘inek,’ if you’re reading labels.

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