By Faruk Zorlu and Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) – International students living in the Turkish capital Ankara shared with Anadolu Agency their thoughts on celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday – marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – far from their families amid continued coronavirus restrictions.
Turkey began a 17-day lockdown on April 29 that will last until May 17. According to officials, the country will gradually ease lockdown restrictions as coronavirus cases and fatalities continue to ebb nationwide.
Traditionally, the Eid festival – celebrated at the end of the fasting month – is a three-day celebration marked by large family festivities and mass prayers for Muslims worldwide.
– ‘Something missing’
Mohamed Fouadi, a Moroccan student who has been living in Turkey for five years, said the month of Ramadan is not only a month of sharing, love, and compassion but also a "great opportunity" for people to shake off mental or physical illnesses.
Fouadi, who is majoring in media studies at Haci Bayram Veli University in Ankara, said that total lockdown had taken away his "spiritual tranquility," as he had to interrupt physical communication during this period.
"There was no collective iftar (fast-breaking dinner) gathering at a common table, and prayers couldn't be held with the congregation. This, unfortunately, made the month of Ramadan feel very different,” he explained.
“It took away that spiritual atmosphere and spirit of the month of Ramadan, making me feel that something was constantly missing," he said.
Telling how last year he was unable to visit his family last year due to pandemic measures, Fouadi said he could not visit his family this year either.
"I haven’t been able to see my mother or siblings because of the pandemic for two years. This is difficult for us," he said.
– Feeling lonely
Masukri Hayeemayeng, 20, a student from the southern Pattani province of Thailand, said that he has been in Turkey for five years and last visited his hometown two years ago.
"I miss my family. I miss family visits and gatherings. We have different cultures and special meals prepared during the Eid festivities. I miss how we used to observe holidays in my childhood," he said.
Another student from Pattani, Ibadoullah Yousuf, 21, a mechanical engineering student at Ostim Technical University, said that three years into his stay in Turkey, he was not able to visit his home once.
Yousuf said he felt "lonely" staying alone for the holiday during the complete lockdown.
"I would like to visit my family and relatives and eat our traditional food," he added.
– 'Chicken is a must for Eid festivities'
Musaddiq Abdul Rauf, 20, a student from the West African country of Ghana, said before the Eid festivities in his country, people get ready by wearing special clothes and shopping to fix special meals for Eid festivities.
"My nation has a tradition of consuming dishes made of chicken meat for the Eid holiday. Because of this, chicken is being sold everywhere on holiday eve. Everyone buys, slaughters, and cooks chicken on Eid," he said.
During the holiday, Abdul Rauf said, people also hold various contests, such as cooking tournaments or Quran recitation competitions, and children have fun with games such as running while holding an egg in a spoon.
– Treasured memories
Abukar Sadi Mohamed, 27, a postgraduate student at Yildirim Beyazit University, said he was last in his motherland Somalia in 2016, and since then has spent all his holidays in Turkey.
"In Eid holidays we always used to come and gather with the family and relatives. These memories are precious for me," he said.
Stressing that he is already happy to be in Turkey, Mohamed added however that he would be even "happier" to observe the festivities with his family members.
– 'Different feeling'
Indrit Shurdi from Albania, an engineering student in Ankara, said he spent the last six years in Turkey, but the last time he visited his home was the summer of 2020.
Shurdi said he spent the past five Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Turkey. However, he added that he would be happy to be with his family for marking the holiday.
"Eid celebrations in Turkey are also very exciting. It's a different feeling to be here as well," he added.