Istanbul (Turkey). Tomorrow, June 18th, is the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (called Ramazan in Turkey). Every night, all around Turkey’s cities – from large ones to villages – a Ramadan drummer (its name should be “Mesaharaty”) will walk around the streets to wake people up before the Sahur (or Suhoor), the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting.
I still remember the first time I was woken up by the passage of a Ramadan drummer: at that time I was on holiday in Goreme (Cappadocia) and initially I thought the drum beats were coming from a local party. Only the day after I learned about this tradition: one night I was moved by curiosity and I decided to look for – and to meet – a real drummer.
I went to Balat, one of the most conservative (and beautiful) district of Fatih, in Istanbul. I had to wait more or less till 3 am before listening to the first beats of a drum, and I was really excited to take part to that event in such a close and thorough way. The drummer was so determined and committed with his task, that he was not at all disturbed about my presence, and I was free to stay few meters behind him. When he saw my camera and understood my intentions, he even invited me to follow him: we walked together through the narrow and old streets that go up and down all around Fener and Balat, and when we were crossing other drummers doing the same, I had the feeling that “mine” was looking proud of my presence. It was a great experience, both photographically and under the human point of view – although a bit challenging for the low light conditions. I took hundreds of photographs in less than half an hour, but I selected this one posted here – which I decided to develop in black and white – as the most representative of a great experience: my special night with a Ramadan drummer.