Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kocatepe Mosque and The Night of Power

As mentioned in the previous blog, near the end of Ramadan, on the 27th day (of 30) of fasting, devout Muslims celebrate the Night of Power, the night when Mohammad received the Koran from Allah. Kocatepe is Ankara's largest mosque, and one of the largest in Turkey. During the last few weeks of Ramadan, it houses an Islam Culture and Book Fair. I went to Kocatepe twice during this special weekend. The first time, we celebrated iftar with our new friends, Patty and Larry, American international teachers who've come from teaching in Korea for 19 years.

I purchased some beautiful artwork of Sultans and Ottoman palaces, and was given a Koran containing English translation as a gift from a merchant who said to me and my foreign friends, "I love you." A calligrapher wrote my name beautifully on marbled paper as a gift, and I bought a cd of ney music from Istanbul (it's a reed flutelike instrument the sufis play to accompany the wherling dervishes).

People were lined up amongst merchants selling scarves, religious paintings and children's toys, waiting for the iftar meal which the mosque served. We intended on eating this meal, but instead joined the people picnicking on makeshift rugs (sometimes pieces of cardboard). We bought simits (Turkish sesame bagels), tea and water, and sat with a family who shared with us their cherry juice.

The simit sellers had their simits stacked and ready for the breaking of the fast.

The call to prayer that breaks the fast. You can see the line for iftar beginning to move and people are drinking water from bottles for the first time all day.

Prayers during the Night of Power are supposed to carry extra efficacy, and so people stay up all evening praying at their nearby mosque. Although we didn't stay up praying all evening, I did go into the mosque for the first time and prayed (for my grandmother who has recently passed away). Women are to pray in a separate space from the men, and in Kocatepe it was a small partitioned area on several floors. It was crowded and warm, and the women were busy chit-chatting and arguing about what space was theirs while, below, the men enjoyed the large open space of the mosque.

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