"My favourite memory is from my last night of the trip. I had been walking around Istanbul all day in the heat, and I was tired, with maghrib still about an hour and a half away. I sat down on a bench near a bunch of picnic tables, content to just sit and absorb what I could during my remaining time in the city.
A man came up to me and started chatting in English: had I been walking around all day, where was I from, how did I like Turkey. He mentioned that he was fasting, and I told him that so was I, and he invited me to join him and his family (his two sisters, his niece, and his niece’s children) for iftar that evening. Soon, he and I were walking through the crowd, searching first for his sisters and then for a free picnic table, and then he was off to go buy some food, while I stayed with the others.
They gave me gifts: prayer beads shaped, and scented, like roses, and earrings with a matching heart-shaped pendant. When the man I had first met came back with the food, the women spoke to him in Turkish, and he explained to me that they had given me the gifts because they liked me so much. And yet they only barely knew me. There are many teachings in Islam about the importance and value of feeding someone who is fasting, but this wasn't just about the food. The meal, the gifts, their warmth: this is Turkish hospitality, they explained."
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