August 16, 2011

Istanbul. June, 2007

As I write this in August at my desk in Massachusetts, the Muslim world is honoring the holiest period of the year, Ramadan. This is the time that the faithful read daily from the Koran, fast from sunrise to sunset, are especially devout. And it’s also the time of iftar, the meal that nightly breaks the day’s fast and fortifies people to get them through the next stretch of daylight abstinence. Though the iftar may have had its humble beginnings as a few dates and some bread, it has in some circles become a lavish spread guaranteed to fill the eater for hours to come. Some restaurants expand their normal menus to include special dishes to mark the holy season. Others set up extra tables outside, sometimes under tents, to accommodate the Ramadan crowds. The meals often extend way past midnight, some almost until sunrise when the fast begins again. I wonder if these three waiters, who kindly agreed to be snapped at our farewell meal in Istanbul, have to deal with any especially spikey diners at the excellent Sofyali 9, people whose blood sugar may be low from hours of fasting, testing the limits of even the most gracious traditions of Middle Eastern hospitality.

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