As the sun set, the celebration began.
It’s Ramadan, a time for fasting from dawn to dusk each day for a month.
“It’s a way to get closer to God,” said Samet Akcay, a volunteer with the Turkish Cultural Center of Pennsylvania, which hosted a Ramadan tent dinner Saturday in downtown State College.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, dedicated to fasting from all things considered to be sinful. But the celebration wasn’t only for the Islamic community; it was an opportunity to promote a culture, said Halil Okur, a TCC volunteer who helped organize the event.
The traditional Ramadan began the evening of June 28 and lasts until the night of July 28. The dates vary each year depending on the phase of the moon.
Saturday was about community outreach and education, said Okur, a Penn State doctoral student from Turkey.
“You see a lot of this in big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We had the chance to bring it here and show others our culture,” he said. “Turkey is 99 percent Muslim; this event shows how it’s happening in Turkey and how they fast.”
Locust Lane between College Avenue and Calder Way was closed to traffic as volunteers wandered the street dressed as they might have been during the time of the Ottoman Empire. There was food from Penn Kebab and arts and crafts that showcased traditional Turkish goods.
Gulay Baltali, who is from Turkey but lives in State College, learned ebru, also known as marbling, about five years ago and will begin teaching classes from her home in the fall.
Ebru is a natural art produced on paper with water and a solution of gum tragacanth. The colors are made of soils and sands, and designs are made using pins and needles to swirl the colors into one another.
The whole process takes a couple of days to complete, Baltali said.
“The preparation is the hardest part; the rest comes easier,” she said. “You need one day to wait and prepare the water and mix the colors.”
Akcay said these works of art were popular hundreds of years ago when Ottoman kings would offer the works as diplomatic gifts to other countries.
“There is a lot of talent within our culture,” Akcay said.
Okur said he hoped to assuage misconceptions about his culture. He said Turkey has not experienced turmoil despite the unrest in countries such as Syria and other parts of the Middle East.
“Maybe I’m biased, but I’d say we’re stable in Turkey,” Okur said. “Americans seem to have a bad image of Muslims because of negative media, but it’s not like that everywhere. This event is aimed to show others we’re like them.”
The event attracted about 250 people, Okur said.