Visit Ephesus & Learn the Stories Behind the Ruins

Visit Ephesus & Learn the Stories Behind the Ruins

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The ancient city of Ephesus wasn’t actually civilized in the modern sense of the word until 850 BC when those from Egypt, Hittites, and Assyrians began to migrate here. This city has ties to significant people in the past including the Virgin Mary. I was able to visit Ephesus on a shore excursion when cruising the Eastern Mediterranean. My entire family thoroughly enjoyed this unique excursion in Turkey.

The Start of Civilized Life in Ephesus

Once these people began living civilized lives invention, innovation and scientific reasoning made this into a major trading city, port city and housed the largest collection of scrolls in the ancient world. These scrolls were filled with mathematics, philosophy, religious beliefs and superstitions, engineering, historical facts, geography, astronomy and many of the other sciences that we know today.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus

Entering Ancient Ephesus:

Entering through the Magnesia gate into the site you will see the State Agora and the Temple of Isis in the center of the Agora, with the Stoa on the North side. The Odeion (Bouletarion or Parliament) this building alone could hold up to 1,400 members of the community could attend the city council meetings. This is also where musical gatherings took place.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus

The State Agora and Temple of Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) were located in the center of the Agora. If you look on the east side of the Odeon (Council Building), you will find the Baths of Varius (Four Arched entries with Mosaics inside), the Monument of Memmius and the fountain of Sextilius Polio circa 93AD, and 1st century BC.

The Monument of Memmius is one of the few architectural monuments which has survived from the late Hellenistic Period. Built by Memmius (one of the prominent people of Ephesus) to honor the Roman Dictator Sulla.

The State Agora and Temple of Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) were located in the center of the Agora. If you look on the east side of the Odeon (Council Building), you will find the Baths of Varius (Four Arched entries with Mosaics inside), the Monument of Memmius and the fountain of Sextilius Polio circa 93AD, and 1st century BC.

The Monument of Memmius is one of the few architectural monuments which has survived from the late Hellenistic Period. Built by Memmius (one of the prominent people of Ephesus) to honor the Roman Dictator Sulla.

Fountain of Sextilius Polio:

The fountain of Sextilius Polio is hard to miss, a massive arch can be seen throughout different parts of the city. This fountain was covered with marble slabs over a rubble base. Two doorposts on either side merged with a grand niche. There were branching systems of clay baked pipes that provided water to this fountain. A number of statues decorated the facade of the fountain including the head of Zeus. The statues that once decorated this fountain are now exhibited at Ephesus Museum.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus

The Curetes Street in Ancient Ephesus:

The Curetes Street will start you down a relatively steep incline towards the main thoroughfare. You will notice how wide the street is, and columns sectioning the side portions into perfect partitions for shops. This is where local merchants would set up shop, and sell various items to politicians.
After passing through the Curetes Street you will see the fountain of Trajan built in 112 AD, on the right-hand side of the road.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus


The Scholastica Baths (4th Century AD) are behind the Temple of Hadrian, the houses of all those rich people were built directly in front of it. These terrace houses filled with beautiful mosaics and decorative arts have been restored, protected and are now on display.

Traveler Tip: It is an extra fee and requires special permits to enter the Terrace Houses, to help preserve them so take some extra change with you.

The Corder of Curetes street and Marble Road you will find the House of Love (aka a Brothel). With the famous Celsus Library directly across from it, facing the Terrace houses.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus

The Celsus Library:

This Library held the remains of Tiberias Julius Celsus Polemaeanus who was the governor of Asia. The scrolls contained within this library were the crowning jewel of this city, with more than 12,000 scrolls contained in cupboards that were protected by double walls behind them to protect from humidity and the extreme temperatures in this area. This was the third wealthiest library in the world (after Alexandra and Pergamum).

If you stand back and look at the columns on the facade, the side columns are shorter columns. This gave it an appearance of being a larger building than it truly was. The statues that occupy the spaces within this facade all symbolize something. Wisdom (sophia), intelligence (ennoia), knowledge (episteme) and virtue (arete); these were all represented as these were the characteristics and virtues many believed Celsus exhibited.

This was by far my favorite part of the entire city, to think of how much knowledge was contained within those walls. How quickly their working knowledge was progressing, innovation, learning etc….. I could have stayed in there all day reading personally. Then I remembered….the limitations of women in that time period to hold rank. It made me grateful to be in the country, time and modern city that I live in today. Despite this line of thinking, it still broke my heart that in 262 AD the library was destroyed by fire during a Gothic invasion.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #HistoryofEphesus

The Great Theater:

Imagine walking down the marble road, the street packed tightly with your friends and neighbors of the city and strangers from the surrounding area. The roads, lit by oil lamps, putting a warm glow around the city while the sea breeze blew into the city cooling down the marble, granite, and stone within the city.

What was playing at the Great Theater tonight? Was it a gladiator game? A dramatic play about the Emperor again? Was it a love story with a happy ending?

The Great Theater would have had the capacity for 24,000 people, with the port avenue extending out in front of it. Can you imagine trying to project your voice as an actor to that many people without a sound system?

The Story of Paul in Ephesus:

For my Christian friends, this is where Paul was dragged into the theater for sending a letter to the Ephesians (See Acts 18-20). His time in Ephesus was quite fruitful for the Christian religion a significant number of Jews and Greeks were converted, the Christian gospel was spread throughout Asia. There was a significant decrease in the purchasing of the silver Diana statues, which made the silver merchants go into a panic.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

The mob gathered there to accuse Paul of hurting the Artemis and her temple. Paul continued to preach to them calmly, despite the peril to his life. Ephesians chapters one through four epistles are commonly known as the Prison Epistles. few hearts in the crowd changed and are the reason Paul survived that onslaught. Funny enough it was the security corps that rescued him from certain death.

Temple of Artemis:

Built in the 8th Century BC was another one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. To put the size of the building into perspective, it is double the size of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. The massive columns reached 180 feet (55 meters) into the air, with the roof reaching 377 feet (115 meters) long. Two marble statues of the God Artemis can be seen in the archaeological museum near this site.

Who was Artemis? She is a lot more important than you would think, as she is the daughter of Zeus (or the CEO of all the Gods). Surprisingly she was the most respected of all the Greek Gods, even more so than her twin brother Apollo. She was considered to be the Goddess of the Hunt, Forests and Hills, protector of children and virginity, goddess of wild animals, the Moon and Archery — sooooo she was pretty busy, to say the least.
The Bear is said to be the most sacred animal to her, and it remained so until Orion won her heart.

Artemis remained one of the patron Gods of this flourishing city, with dense forests that surrounded the area – perfect place for legends to be told. The Temple of Artemis was eventually destroyed by a deranged man called Herostratus who wanted to have his name written into history books, and believed destroying this building was the only way to do it.

The House of the Virgin Mary:

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

When Christianity took over, the House of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed that Mary spent the last years of her life is now worshiped still to this day. This sacred place is variously referred to as Meryem Ana Evi. It is said that she came to Ephesus with John around 37 AD in order to flee the persecutions of Christians in Jerusalem. Many Christian pilgrims believe that Mary died here, or near here and was taken up to heaven rather than experiencing a standard death around 45 CE.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

While there are many arguments surrounding where the Virgin Mary died, this site has been declared a Shrine and visited several times by Catholic Popes. While some say it is a highly commercialized area, there is a quiet sense of reverence and peace when you come to this place. Not many Christians know of this Shrine to Mary in Turkey, but of those who do, it is regarded as a place of healing, miracles, and where many can tie kerchiefs with prayers on them to a wall near Mary’s home.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

I was moved by the white kerchiefs that were hanging from the Wishing Wall. I thought of the Western Wall (aka the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem, and a part of me could feel the pleading and grateful words written on those kerchiefs. As you make your way down the wall, and around the area surrounding Mary’s home, there is a small spring. Many pilgrims believe that this spring has healing powers and would splash the water on themselves as if being baptized again, or take a small drink of water and make the sign of the cross over themselves.

I am Christian, but I am not a worshiper of sacred sites – only to the point of, I enjoy the feeling of reverence that surrounds them. No matter what religion it is, there is something inspiring, moving, and triggers a soulful reflection of how I can be better — because of the example of their devotion to what they believe in.

The Final Verdict on Ephesus:

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

When I first came to visit Ephesus, I thought ‘oh brother, not another broken down ruined Romanesque overcharged place’. I was with my family, so it wasn’t really an option to NOT choose to visit. After getting an audio guide so I wouldn’t be completely bored, learning about the history of the place, seeing the Shrine to Mary, learning of the Goddess of the Hunt, and being able to walk up the Great Stadium Steps and going down Curates Street – I have to say I was quite impressed with this place. The Celsus Library was heartbreaking to hear of all that knowledge that was lost to the world at that time. Walking down Curates Street with all the other tourists, was one of the few times I was glad there were crowds because it helped me imagine what it would have been like in ancient times with hoards of people headed to the stadium.

So is it worth it to see and explore Ephesus? I will give a resounding YES, I am not that into ruins strewn about on the ground haphazardly – this is not that kind of place. I would say the awe that it inspired was close to the awe and wonder I felt the first time I stepped in the Coliseum. For my religious friends, witnessing the wall of kerchiefs, the feeling at Mary’s Shrine is well worth it. It is not just the shrine that will inspire you but imagining Paul in the Great Stadium. Go stand in the middle of the Great Stadium floor and imagine people jeering and calling for your death for writing a letter – it will send chills down your spine.

Visit Ephesus on a shore excursion - Culture Trekking - #Ephesus #EphesusTurkey #Ephesusshoreexcursion

Ephesus certainly has a right to be on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. With how well preserved the town is (compared to so many others), it will give you one of the best examples to imagine yourself in the time of the Ancient Greek/Roman life in one of the greatest cities of that time. If you happen to be on a cruise in this area, or in Turkey and can visit Ephesus – I would highly recommend you do so. Especially if you are an ancient civilization history lover like me, you will fall in love with this place.


Other Activities around Ephesus:

Isa Bey Mosque built in 1375
Archaeological Museum of Ephesus where the ancient remains found in the ruins of Ephesus are beautifully displayed.
Sirince village represents an interesting mixture of past-Greek existence with today’s local Turkish people producing homemade wine and delicious olive oil.

Where to Stay When You Visit Ephesus:

Booking.com

Tours:

Kusadasi to Ephesus Sightseeing Tour with Historian and Lunch
Private Tour: Ephesus Day Trip including Terrace Houses
Ephesus and Pamukkale Hot Springs Express from Istanbul (2 days, 1 night)
Other Tours in Turkey that include Ephesus

What to Pack:

Favorite Walking Shoes: Keen Sandals (Never got a blister with these EVER)
Sony RX10 IV Compact Camera with 600mm zoom, 4k video, and 120fps shooting – (This is the Camera I use)
Canon EOS 80D DSLR Creator Package- (everything you will need- starter photographer package)


If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Turkey

Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Turkey

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When visiting Ephesus during our Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, my family and I were able to stop by the Shrine of the Virgin Mary. I didn’t expect the place to be so humble, nor see all the prayers on the wall, or people drinking from what they believed to be a Holy Spring. So let me help educate you on this Christian Shrine, so you can enjoy it a little more when you visit on your Ephesus Excursion.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

Is It Really The House Of the Virgin Mary?

There are several evidences that contribute to believers claiming this is truly the Home of the Virgin Mary

1- In nearby Ephesus, there is a presence of the tomb of St John of Ephesus. He was a known, and close, companion of the Virgin Mary.

2- The presence of the first Basilica of the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Ecumenical Council of 431 AD was held in Ephesus in this Basilica for the definition of the dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary. In this council they wrote, “….after his arrival to Ephesus, where John the Theologian and the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God….”

3- Lastly, the Orthodox villagers of nearby Kirkince were believed to be descendants of the Christians that lived in Ephesus. They passed from generation to generation the belief of the Dormition of Mary in this place. They have kept this tradition alive through the annual pilgrimage of the 15th of August.

History of the Shrine of Virgin Mary

The Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, is believed to be the House of the Virgin Mary is actually in Turkey, its about 26 km (34 min drive) from Ephesus/Kusudasi Port, located on Mount Koressos (or Mount Nightingale).

Typically tour guides can take you from the port to the shrine, where hundreds of both Christian/Catholic & Islamic pilgrims alike come to see the house where Mary spent her last days.

Built in the 4th Century AD, a church, combining her house and grave have been built there. There are two areas within the church for both Christians to worship, and Muslims to worship as well. I thought this was very thoughtful, to allow two religions to worship in their own way and own time.

The Sacred Water

Just next to that you will find the Sacred Fountain of the “Water of Mary”, where some believe that this water has powerful healing properties, and can aid in fertility. Be forewarned it is quite salty, but all are welcome to drink it, make sure to bring your own cup or water bottle if you would like to try any.

The water at the Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary is actually to also have been a small stream that flowed into the home, like most traditional homes of that time, that is to believed to have flowed in the same room as where the Virgin Mary use to sleep within the home, which is why some believe in its healing properties.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

The Shrine

Just outside this church you find a wall covered in cloth, I thought it was handkerchiefs to wipe tears away and for a moment mistook it for the Wailing Wall (which is actually in Israel). But this is actually called the ‘Wishing Wall’, where you can come and place a piece of cloth with a prayer on it, hoping that the Virgin Mary will supplicate your cause to God on your behalf.

I think seeing all the hopes, dreams, wishes, and prayers from pilgrims all over the world placed on this wall made me sad in a way. There is a lot going on in this world, and that which is most painful often happens inside the home.

To have an area like this, where I think even writing your wishes/hopes/prayers down, can be therapeutic in a way. I stared at this wall for quite some time, feeling like I was intruding on someone’s private life if I touched any of the prayer cloths. Instead just stood back and observed those putting their prayer cloths on the wishing wall, the way that you could feel the people here pouring their heart into it, it gives this place a very special feeling.

This Christian Shrine of Virgin Mary, although has never been pronounced as an official site of the Virgin Mary, has received 3 different Papal blessings.

Many times Christian pilgramage sites are passed down through generations by word of mouth. So if you ever visit Israel on a Pilgramage, you will hear ‘actual site’ vs ‘traditional site’ of events happening. But to have the heavily isolated villagers of Kirkince deem this place the Panaya Kapulu, or the “Doorway to the Virgin” does make you think that it could very well be a holy site.

Shrine of the Virgin Mary - Ephesus Excursion

Restoration of the Shrine

The Chapel we see today was rebuilt upon the original foundations of the home of the Virgin Mary and appears to date back to the 1st and 4th Centuries. The last restoration on this small dwelling took place in 1951.

The Feeling of This Christian Shrine

I let my mind wander and think that someone who lived during the time of Christ was here, and indeed may have been the Virgin Mary. There was a peaceful feeling inside, despite all the tourists, and a sense of reverance for a woman who has been revered and worshiped for thousands of years.

The drive to this place might take some time, but seeing all the worshipers, the quiet peace in this place combined to make a trip here well worth it to me.


Like it? Pin it! Sharing is Caring 😉

Where to Stay in Ephesus

Booking.com

For more articles like this, read:

Hagia Sophia, a journal for centuries past in Turkey
Journey through Nazareth and Jezreel Valley in Israel

Hagia Sophia Tour: From Past To Present

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Now a museum, but a building that stands as a religious journal to centuries of time and a witness to many wars. This impressive building is so large that the Empire State Building could actually fit underneath its massive dome. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum in Turkey. Over the Centuries it has been influenced mostly by both Ottoman and Byzantine influences and perfectly projects this onto those who enter its walls. Let me take you on a virtual Hagia Sophia Tour, and give you a brief summary of the old Hagia Sophia to the Hagia Sophia today.

A Structure of Contrasting Religions

With both gold Christian Mosaics that have been uncovered, and central Islamic spiritual messages that adorn the walls; it made me sad in a way, that this building could be given the title of being a ‘museum’, and yet Christians and extremists cannot seem to find any common ground. Our time is likely not unlike the wars that this building has seen in its time. Maybe one day, our time can be looked at with both sadness and enlightenment on the human condition of this war on extremism, we can only hope.

One of the reasons I loved this building, is because of the contrasts of having both Christian and Islamic emblems within the same walls. I appreciate the Turkish government for allowing such a museum to exist and maintaining the property; especially since it is directly across from a operating mosque, the Blue Mosque, with its gorgeous and intricate interior.

The Old Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia built by brick and mortar, is 31, 24 mt (102 ft 6 in) diameters and is 55, 6 mt (182 ft 5 in) high. Originally it was a wooden structure used for Pagen rituals, then that was torn down, and a Byzantine church built by Constantine in 360 AD. It underwent fires, earthquakes and collapse in total 5 different times. It was in 1931 that Christian Mosaics, previously plastered over for Islamic religious preparations, were beginning to be uncovered. Then in 1934 was transformed into a museum.

Significant church leaders from many denominations, emperors, sultans and princes have all walked these halls. It was a little humbling to think that I was walking in the steps of men and women who made the history books. I like to imagine what the walls of the buildings had been witness to. I think the more history a certain historical building holds, the more magic it has because of that history, and the bigger impact it has on my heart.

Getting To Hagia Sophia

My family & I visited this building on an excursion from our Cruise, it was an easy train ride to the center of town. You will need to buy a train ticket, with cash, at the machines located next to the tracks. There is an option for English on the ticket machines.

When you get on the train men are expected to give up their seat for women, especially women with children; I really appreciated this as my sister was given a seat while she was holding her 9 month old sleeping daughter. The train is typically quite, out of respect for other passengers. The train ride into town took only about 20 minutes, and most of the major tourist attractions are within walking distance.

I suggest visiting the Blue Mosque early in the morning as it can get crowded on Fridays and around the time for calls to prayer, it opens before Hagia Sophia.

Entrance to Hagia Sophia

You will need to get in line for Hagia Sophia quite early, as it gets quite crowded later in the day. A donation as you leave any mosque or museum is appreciated, as these places need to be maintained and can be quite costly. Be sure to explore every corner of the Hagia Sophia, and if you are able to arrange for a guide, you could spend the whole day learning about the history of this place and all the layers of this building and when things were added & by what religious or cultural sect.

Hagia Sophia Today

Hagia Sophia, Turkish Ayasofya, Latin Sancta Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom, Church of the Divine Wisdom, no matter what you call it the transformations make this an incredible place of historical worship.

The most impressive parts about this building, is that despite being in a predominately Muslim country they still show the Christian heritage it holds. In a way it made me hopeful that an understanding could blossom between Christians and the Muslim community. That a mutual understanding and respect is still possible. Allowing things like this to be available to tourists, locals etc… and bridging that gap of cultural misunderstanding is the first step.

So take a visit to Turkey and see this amazing building, and experience their wonderful culture, and intricate history… you won’t regret it. I still consider Istanbul to be one of the top 5 places I have ever visited.


For more information on Traveling around Istanbul:

Ramadan, from an American White Girl’s Perspective
Two Days in Istanbul Itinerary- by Our Escape Clause
Visit Petra: A Wonder of the World

Ramadan Made Simple : An American Perspective

Reading Time: 7 minutes

**The purpose of ‘Ramadan Made Simple’ is to educate, not offend. To those who are of the Muslim faith, feel free to comment and help educate us all, and Rhamadan Kareem to you**

From all the movies I have watched of Muslims bombing Americans, treating women poorly & the mysterious secretive nature of the religion — to be honest I started to become afraid of Muslims & those who wore Hijab’s. So me, being who I am, set out to face my fears and educate myself on what the truth was. I don’t like to give into the mainstream media, and I’m not a ‘follow the crowd’ kind of personality.

As fate would have it, I started working for a Muslim doctor in Las Vegas, and ended up rubbing shoulder with his friends & colleagues who were also from the same religion. He was actually from Pakistan, and after 2 years of working for him & with a nurse who converted to the religion, I learned a lot & my perspective radically changed.

Bottom line, they are human beings, who find passion in their religion that gives them a sense of community – when many do not treat what they believe with much respect. No matter what religion you come from, there will always be the ‘few’, who skew the perspective of the ‘many’. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka: Mormon, as the public calls us- see LDS.org for more on this), we also have a problem with this aspect and many assuming we are part of the “Sister Wives” – which couldn’t be further from the truth. I think this is why I wanted to learn more, because I know how it feels to be misunderstood, and have people assume things about me that aren’t true.

Quiet frankly, it is hurtful & makes me feel more isolated when people don’t bother to ‘seek first to understand’ instead of just Ass-uming. So after several years of observing, learning, reading (yes, even read ‘The Koran for Dummies’ lol)

What I Learned About Rhamadan:

1- It Is Deeply Religious

It is a deeply religious time for them, which is celebrated as a family. And follows the Lunar Calendar, which means it is a few days earlier each year. This year it begins on 5/27/17

2- Preparation Is Extensive

Days of preparation happen beforehand, each country is different in what they prepare but typically involves special dishes rich in calories and electrolytes that help sustain them throughout the day.  (Below is Harrira, a traditional soup made for Rhamadan that is a Tomato base with spices and is very very delicious)

3- Timed By The Sun

Rhamadan begins and ends with the phases of the Sun and coincides with their calls to prayer. The Morning prayer of Fajr (must eat & hydrate for the day BEFORE this prayer); and Maghrib (eat til you are sick, and celebrate the day with family & friends). For local times on call to prayer (for education, I found this App for Iphone and Samsung)

  • Fajr: it is a prayer & intention of the heart, you fast to show your obedience to Allah (God) and submit your will to his for your life.

4- Why is it required?

Rhamadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, or one of the 5 major lifetime commitments that they believe is required by God to be rewarded for in heaven. It is also the Lunar calendar month in which the Quran (their Holy Book) was revealed & in a way is a world-wide celebration for showing God how much the appreciate the direction it provided them.

Note: If you read about when their Prophet Mohammad was inspired to found this religion & belief system, it was in a time of a lot of turmoil – where women were sold, bought, killed. Pagan beliefs were rampant & it was a call to leave that aside and live life as a higher law and it ended up saving thousands of lives within the region because of its founding.

My Soap Box:

Whenever a life is saved, I am deeply grateful to whatever source helped to save it. Working in the medical field and seeing the frailty and emotional struggle with physical ailments; consoling those who have lost a loved one — it takes a lot out of me emotionally.

So realizing this bit of history, made me particularly grateful to their Prophet Mohammad for providing an avenue in which lives could be saved during its founding. While I know that their are lives lost in the current situation with terrorists and bombings, this is not the first time that lives have been lost in the name of religion. Christians have slaughtered those of the Jewish faith, Romans caught Christians and put them into gladiator pits and drug them behind chariots for sport and their are centuries of people doing this over and over and over….in the name of religion.

This does not diminish the pain or the loss experienced by those that have lost their lives in the battle against terrorism; it is a cruel, hateful & heart-breakingly evil thing that is happening in and to our world. But the best way to battle that, at least in my opinion, is by education, reaching across the isle and showing forgiveness, spreading understanding not spewing words of hate that further isolates us from our fellow human beings. History is going to keep repeating itself until we as the human race can stop labeling, self labeling, identifying others as ‘bad’ ‘wrong’ or ‘crazy’, just because they believe something different than us.  #endofsoapbox

5- Practicing Discipline

They feel that abstaining from food is a way to practice discipline and restrain for the human desires of this life. Muslims believe (similar to Mormon beliefs) that the body is a vessel that was given to us by God to allow our spirits (or celestial bodies) come to Earth and be tested with all the associated trials that come with being human. (We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, not the other way around). So in a way, it is their way of proving to God that they are focused on improving their spirituality & hope (if done correctly & with true intent of the heart) that he will accept their fast. In accepting their fast, they will be rewarded when their life is over. It is also a way for Muslims to appreciate all that God has given them, to feel what it is like to be hungry and thirsty all day; so as to soften their hearts to the hungry and sick. Which strengthens empathy, which in my opinion is something we definitely need more of in this world of ours.

6- Are There Exceptions During Rhamadan?

There are those who are exempt of course!

Children generally don’t participate until they hit puberty, but because most of them want to be ‘a grown-up’ they end up at least doing a meal or two with their family.

Those on menstrual cycles & women during childbirth

The elderly or those with health problems

My thoughts: totally reasonable, and glad there are exceptions honestly, and after researching it, these individuals have the option to just go and feed the poor one meal a day for each day of the fast to substitute for what they can’t do themselves.

7- There Are Six Things That Make Fasting Invalid

Intentional Eating or Drinking

If someone eats or drinks due to forgetfulness, a mistake, or coercion, then his fast is still valid and should continue to fast.

If you choose to eat or drink, for any reason, then your fast will become invalid.

My thought: reasonable, as a Mormon we fast once a month at the beginning of the week, with the same idea. 

Intentional Vomiting

If one is overcome by the urge to vomit, and vomits unintentionally, then he should continue to fast.

My thought: well who would want to eat anyway if they are vomiting. 

If someone chooses to vomit, for any reason, then his fast will become invalid.

My thought: if they are vomiting intentionally, well they likely need a lot more help and should get the reason for vomiting intentionally looked at (ie/ Binge and purging is a serious issue that should be addressed by a Psychologist and Nutritionist) 

Intentional Sexual Intercourse

If one has sexual intercourse while fasting, then he must perform kaffaarah, expiation of the sin. (Fasting continuously for sixty days or if unable then one should feed sixty poor people).

My thought: women will love this idea, lol, but if you think about it, sex puts your mind into a dirty lustful place. So if the idea is to clear the mind and have it more in-line with the thoughts of God; well abstaining from sex is likely not the best thing to be doing during your Holy month. 

Menstrual or Childbirth Bleeding

The fast becomes invalid during menstrual or post-childbirth bleeding. Even if such bleeding begins just before sunset, the fast of that day is invalid and the day must be made up at a later time.

My thought: this was a little irritating to me, mostly because I hate my menstrual cycle and don’t feel women should have to fast longer because they are on the cycle. But on the flip side of this thought, its likely better to not fast when you are on your menstrual cycle and just delay it, because you are likely to already be bitchy & then to add Hangry on top of that — well there would be no more Muslim men left if they had this deadly combination. Just my opinion, take it or leave it. Regarding Childbirth, I totally agree, no woman should be fasting when growing a human being in their belly; it would be harmful for the child. 

8- The Three Day Festival Is Amazing

The Holy month of Rhamadan ends with a 3 day festival (massive amount of food and several parties) called Eid el-fatir. And who doesn’t love a party 😉 In the end I came to appreciate a small part of what makes up Islam and its people, and have learned so much from my friends who are part of this religion.

I haven’t met one Muslim yet who hasn’t been warm, kind, inviting, and patient with me and my questions (which at times I know were slightly rude and racist– my apologizes).

Taking Time To Understand

So as with anything in our lives, if you are afraid of it, seek first to understand — and in the end you will be able to make a very personal & educated decision on if those fears you had were founded or not. It is ok to disagree, it is ok to get angry at the attacks that are happening by these terrorists & protect your lives/livelihood and families; but its not ok to lump an entire religion into one package.

So my takeaway? Its a month of reflection, giving thanks, abstaining from our animalistic human natures & coming closer to our divine nature. Developing our spiritual selves, helping those that are less fortunate & remembering the history of how human kind was drastically changed by a book called the Quran.

I have tried the ‘give up something for lent’ & now after studying and reading all of this (ok and participating in some of the parties associated with this), I might just have to give it a try in my own way. Focusing on my spiritual side and realizing that I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience.

I hope that this article has been informative to those not of the Islamic faith, and I truly hope my Muslim friends feel I have given honest opinions in a way that has not offended them or what they believe, to you I say Rhamadan Murbarak & Rhamadan Kareem 🙂

Useful Terms:

Rhamadan Murbarak (Congratulations its Rhamadan, or congrats on the month of blessings for this month)

Rhamadan Kareem (Have a generous Rhamadan, or generous in the way of have generous blessings from God this month)