Ramadan Meal at Grand Mosque  Xi'an China June-2014

Humanity Photo Award held by UNESCO & CFPA  China 2015 "Living Custom" section

My last stop in China was the ancient capital city Xian. I arrived there at 22.00 after spending 10 hours on a local train. When I left the hotel in the morning, I realized that I was in a Muslim neighborhood. Xian's Muslim population is numbered at about 150 000 and they pray in 17 mosques throughout the city. I visited two mosques, dated at around 1300 years old. They have were built during the Tang dynasty. The emperor's edicts have been immortalized in stone at the mosque courtyard. The 1272-year-old Grand Mosque is an example of traditional Chinese architecture. Surahs from the Quran were written on the wooden walls by burning in Arabic and Chinese. The whole procedure took 17 years to complete. Today the mosques are a part of the city's culture.

As I was walking around, I spotted a shop that sold Islam paraphernalia. There were posters of Istanbul in the shop windows. I went inside and asked if they spoke English. When someone said that they did speak English, I explained that I was a photographer from Turkey and that I wanted to document the Islamic culture in Xian. I asked for help. One day later, they said that iftar dinner will be prepared in Ulu Mosque and I could take pictures of this event. But first I had to get permission from the mosque director. Once at the mosque, I first met the director and told him my wish. In China, imams are bound to directors. After listening to me and reviewing my documents, he gave permission. That was a good opportunity for me to see how to prepare a traditional Ramadan Meal in China.

I'm actually in here to get the prize I won with a Ramadan meal in Turkey. After the award ceremony, I decided to travel inside China, and find new photo subjects. Now I am in Xi'an at Grand Mosque. One year later, with this photo work, I would win a new prize in China again with a similar subject. The foods were buying by funds pooled together by Muslim shop owners. The meal was cooked in the kitchen of the mosque with the participation of the public and served to the tables in the mosque courtyard. After the imam opened the meal with a sermon of Ramadan, the fast was broken and prayers are performed. The remaining meals were distributed to those who came in front of the mosque door. I also got my share of the meal in the kitchen. They watched me intently as I was eating with chopsticks, they laughed when they saw that I was unsuccessful, then they gave me a spoon. I missed some scenes the first day, but I visited again the second day to complete the story. 30.June - 1.July.2014