the Ramadan dinner

On the second day of our arrival in Istanbul, my college and I were recommended to dine in a well known Turkish restaurant Devali. The restaurant offered a set menu, serving many dishes of traditional Turkish food. It is located on the water front in the Kalamis marina. We arrived about ten minutes before eight, and the restaurant was half full. We were lucky to get a table on the outside deck, looking over docked sailing boats and a beautiful sunset. When we sat down, the appetizers were already placed on the table – bread, olives, tomato paste, dates, salads. All delicious looking. We immediately  started eating, and quickly realized no other customers were touching the food on their tables. Everyone was just chatting. The situation was even more awkward as we were the only two Asians there! Puzzled, we looked around but couldn’t stop munching on the delicious food.

Then, a few minutes past eight, the sun sunk below the horizon. As if a silent order was given, everyone started eating. The restaurant suddenly fell silent. Dishes were brought out one after another. Almost twenty minutes later, people looked up from their food, lit a cigarette, sat back in their chairs, and started chatting again. Dishes kept on arriving at our table. The full meal lasted almost three hours, completed with Turkish coffee or tea.

We related our experiences to our Turkish colleagues the next day. And only then realized we arrived during the last week of Ramadan. I sure hope we did not offend anyone in the restaurant!

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