Although 99% of the population is Muslim, in Turkey religion is seen as strictly a private matter. In fact, Turkey is the only Islamic country which is a secular state. This is enshrined in the constitution and means that religion has no place whatsoever in the running of the country's affairs. In line with other European countries, the weekly holiday-is Sunday - not the Islamic holiday of Friday - and the Gregorian calendar is used. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to worship. During the time of the Ottoman Empire, people of many different faiths lived in what is now Turkey, and since that time, this diversity has been preserved. Today there are 236 churches and 34 synagogues open for worship in Turkey.


Tourists visiting coastal resorts are unlikely to see much evidence that they are in a Muslim country, except for the call to prayer which can be heard 5 times per day. Dress is relaxed beachwear for locals and tourists alike. Similarly there is little difference between the way in which people dress in large cities in Turkey and the rest of Europe. It is only in smaller villages, more remote areas and the east of the country that dress codes are more formal. The best advice is to take your cue from the locals and adapt your dress to lit in with theirs. It is quite common for village women to wear headscarves but this is generally as much out of practical and cultural than strictly religious considerations.


The only time when you need to worry about dress codes is when visiting a mosque. Everyone should wear clothes which cover their legs, so no shorts for either sex, and women should also make sure that their shoulders and head are covered. Shoes should be removed before entering a mosque. There is usually a rack or storage area where they can be left or you can carry them with you in a bag. Mosques are usually closed to visitors during prayer times. As in any place of worship, visitors should speak quietly and behave respectfully.


There are two major Islamic Festivals which are celebrated in Turkey. The dates of both change each year, according to a lunar calendar. The festivals are §eker Bayrami which falls at the end of Ramadan, a period of fasting, and Kurban Bayrami, the Feast of Sacrifice, when traditionally a goat is sacrificed and the meat distributed to friends, family and neighbours. Government offices and some other institutions are closed during these periods but life in resorts continues much as usual, since many Turks also head to the coast when these holidays fall in the summer months. During Ramadan, or Ramazan, as it is known in Turkey, it is common for locals to fast from sunrise to sunset. This should not affect visitors to tourist areas.

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