Kurban Bayramı or the Feast of the Sacrifice in a Nutshell

Feast of the Sacrifice or Kurban Bayramı in Istanbul

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information

“What exactly is the Feast of the Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı)?” is a question foreigners often ask me when visiting Istanbul during that festival. In this article I will explain the basics of this 4,5 day religious holiday, and of course here and there mention some aspects typical for Istanbul.

What? – The Feast of the Sacrifice commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah. You can find essentially the same story in the Old Testament where Abraham was willing to kill his son Isaac, until an angels stops him.

When? – The Feast of the Sacrifice takes place about 70 days after the end of Ramazan. Here are the exact dates of Kurban Bayramı for the coming three years. The festival lasts four and a half days. The festival’s eve (arife) is the half day to prepare for the four day festivities.

Why? – The Sacrifice Festival is all about charity and community. During this holiday people are constantly on the move visiting family and friends. Family ties get strengthened and children are given an opportunity to bond with the older generations.

Who? – All believers of the Abrahamic religions, but now Muslims are the most active practitioners of this act of faith. Even people who generally don’t go to the mosque, often do go to the mosque to attend the morning prayer on the first day of Bayram.

How? – A goat or sheep of minimum one year old is killed / sacrificed. Sometimes even a bull or a camel of minimum 2 years old is sacrificed, representing a sacrifice of up to seven people. The meat is then given to the poor (both within Turkey and outside) and shared among family members and neighbors.

Typical for both the Feast of the Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı) and the Sugar Feast (Ramazan Bayramı) is that parents buy new outfits for their children and give the old clothes to the poor. Typically, the children wear their new clothes throughout the festival.

Where? – In a not so distant past a butcher or the head of the family would perform the sacrifice in the garden or street. Today, such practices are prohibited by law. These days special mobile slaughter houses are installed throughout the city where trained butchers will kill, clean, and package the meat at the requests of the families.

Other people prefer to just donate money to organizations such as Türk Hava Kurumu and have animals slaughtered in their name. The organization will also make sure the food is correctly distributed to the poor.

Implications for tourists – Most tourist attractions will be closed for a (half) day on the first day of the festival. Banks, companies, schools and government services will be closed for the whole duration of the festival. In case you plan some road trips to the outskirts of Istanbul, avoid this time of the year. For four days the whole of Turkey is on the move, making roads clogged basically all day long. And the urban legend goes that it always rains on the third or fourth day of the festival. İyi Bayramlar.

This article just lists the facts about the Feast of the Sacrifice. By no means will this post reflect my personal thoughts about sacrificing animals, nor should it become a forum for people expressing their opinions on that subject. All comments will be moderated.

What's Next

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria October 2, 2011 at 3:56 am

I think the Kurban Bayrami holiday is a beautiful tradition. It is ideal to keep the family united..
We the tourist understand the celebration and I in particular will enjoy the opportunity to be around

Reply

Noora October 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi.. i need your advice!!

i will be coming to Istanbul 2-8 Novmber 2011 .. including the Kurban days, so the shopping malls will be available within this period? what about the traditional souq?.

Please advice to know how to plan my visit.

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Hi Noora,

During Kurban Bayramı or the Feast of the Sacrifice, the shopping malls should be open. They might be closed the first (half) day of the holiday week, but it should be business as usual afterwards. The same goes for the small shops in the back streets. Do keep in mind that both the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar will be closed for the whole duration of the festival time.

Have a nice stay.

Reply

gözde November 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

im Turkish and i like Kurban Bayramı :)

Reply

James Timbrell September 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Hi,
We’re going to Istanbul for a friends birthday from 24th – 30th October. I have never been and am very excited.
Will the Feast of the Sacrifice have any major implications to my holiday? We’re hoping to do the Bosphorus cruise, a trip to the Princes Islands and the general tourist attractions. I presume that most things would be closed on the Monday (29th) but should I be ok to get around on the other days?
Many thanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Hi James,

The day you arrive, the 24th, supermarkets and shops will be more crowded than usual and business will close earlier in order to give everybody a chance to prepare for the festivities. They start the next day, the 25th. That day, certainly in the morning, most sightseeing spots will be closed. Spin the afternoon some will resume business, while others will remain closed until the next day.

Have a nice holiday,
Erlend

Reply

Mai October 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hi there,

I got confused a little bit. I am planing to visit Istanbul on 28th October till 8th November, do you mean by above that both grand bazaar & spice bazaar will be closed during these days ??

Also, are there any special activities during these days we can attend ? any kind of celebrations ? traditional ones ?

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Hi Mai,

Well, yes and no. The first day of the festivities banks, shops and sightseeing spots will be closed. Public transportation will be more or less business as usual. While banks will remain closed for the whole period, the majority of sightseeing spots and shops will reopen in the afternoon of the first day or the morning of the second day the latest. Both bazaars however will remain closed for the whole 3 days.

Yes, you read that correctly. Do not despair, the holiday only lasts 3 days. Do keep in mind Monday is an official holiday too, but I’m sure tourists won’t be affected too much by that.

Have a great holiday,
Erlend

Reply

Jen October 24, 2012 at 1:25 am

I understand there are banks in some shopping malls. Are those closed as well? Thanks in advance for your reply.

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Yes, they are normally.

Reply

C.L. October 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Hi!

We’re going to Istanbul this weekend for four days (friday till monday).
Now that both Bazaars are closed, could you recommend a place that has Bazaar -like features? Like places where you can haggle, get cheapass souvenirs and preferably in the Sultanahmet neighborhood?

Also, this Monday is a public holiday and the weather forecast predicts lots of rain.
Can you suggest some (special) indoor activities? We will be visiting the major sights the first days, so those are covered.

Thanks in advance!

Kind regards,
C.L.

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Hi,

I would try out the street at the back of the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü. You can actually follow them up all the way to Sultanahmet.

As for a really rainy day, you could try out Forum Istanbul, a big shopping center with also a small theme park for kids and a nice aquarium. But if you really like to see fish, you should check out the Aquarium in Florya (I wrote an article on that), you can easily spend three hours there.

Then again, don’t trust the weather forecasts for over three days.

Have a nice stay,
Erlend

Reply

Adem October 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm

nice article :) as a Turkish and a Muslim, i like Kurban Bayramı, its one of the best ways to get together with our family and friends :)

Reply

pierre hamel August 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm

I will be in Istanbul on 15 th to 18 th october 2013, just during the Feast of the Sacrifice, I understand by what I read that the Bazars will be close. But at what time does the Museum will reopen on the 15 th, Is it 1.30 pm? And on the following days 16 th to 18 th will Topkapi, Haghia Sofia, Chora be fully open. Thank for your answer: pierre

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Hi Pierre,

You’re right, just like it said in the article.

Erlend

Reply

Miranda September 26, 2013 at 10:16 am

Hi there!
I will be in Istanbul on 15 th to 19th october 2013. just during the Feast of the Sacrifice I have a lot of questions :-) but I will not bother you much :-)!
We arrive late in the afternoon on 15.10. and I understand that the first day almost everything is closed but I’m interested in how the city breathes and works on other days 16.10.-19.10.? What is the situation now in Taksim? Will shops be open those days on that side of town?
Can you recommend a company with which to go on a cruise Bosporus?
Will bazaar be open in the morning 19.10. because it’s only time then we left to go to visit before plain?
Indeed I’m very glad that I can attend at that time because I think it’s nice to see different customs as people celebrate and although I respect all the customs and traditions still hope they do not drop a lot of rain these days :-)
Thanks in advance!
Kind regards,
M.

Reply

Erlend Geerts September 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi Miranda,

Just what it says in the post really. Almost everything will be closed on the first day. Transportation (public and private) services will continue as usual (and public transportation may be even free of charge). Restaurants should remain open, and shops will open up again late the first day or at the very least the second day. The same goes for all sightseeing spots, except the Grand Bazaar. This one may open its doors again on Saturday, but there is no guarantee that will be the case for all shops in there.

Taksim has always been a safe place. But as in every country, when you notice huge crowds gathering to demonstrate, it’s better to leave the scene just in case. We have a full page on the Bosphorus cruise. Did you check that?

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Miranda September 26, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Erlend, thanks for quick response,
I hope we’ll enjoy the rest of everything that is offered because it is a great city and if we do not to get to visit the Grand Bazaar, and maybe some other things, then we have therefore come again :-)
but also hope that it will be open, only to feel the spirit of the same no matter if all the shops will be Open.
Yes, I found everything about the trip on the Bosporus, thanks.
I’ll give you my impressions when I get home:-)
One more thanks for response,
Miranda

Reply

jean October 1, 2013 at 2:07 am

Hi There
many thanks for your very helpful articles. every night i’m trying to read and learn more about this beautiful city.We are going to Istanbul on 14th Oct 2013 for our honeymoon . how this celebration effect us? we are going to stay in Han Hostel Airport North for first night and we are planing to find a hotel while we are there as we want to see the place ahead. secondly we are thinking to stay in Sultanahmet for 3-4 days and 2-3 days in Asian side. do you think is it a good idea? thanks for your advise.

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 2, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Hi Jean,

Well, did you check out Witt Istanbul Suites already? I’m sure it would be a perfect fit for your honeymoon. And the location of the hotel is also ideal to explore both parts of the city.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

jean October 2, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Erlend
Thanks for your reply. I checked the hotel. its really nice. But how about the celebration? I was thinking if the shops are going to be effected i would change the flight as I’ve got to do shopping and shopping and shopping.

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

Hi Jean,

The problem is that there is no real rule regarding what shops will be open and which ones closed (for a while). Most shopping centers will be open all the time. Local shop owners may decide:
- to stay open, and treat the holiday as business as usual
- to close earlier on October 14th, remain closed October 15th (until noon)
- to close for the whole duration of the feast (i.e. Grand Bazaar, banks)

My perception: forget about shopping in the morning of the first day (this year 15th) and slowly but surely everything opens up again.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

amina October 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm

hello Erlend thanks for what you are doing you are really helping people you are nice I will be in Istanbul from 12 to 19 for shopping I just found out that everywhere will be close for kurban bayrami so no more shopping especially grand bazaar what can I do?

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 7, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hi Amina,

Actually, the Grand Bazaar will be the only shopping center to close its doors. All the other shops will be open.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

steve October 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Hi, Thanks for the great advice on this page Erlend. My wife and I were planning to visit Turkey October 12-20 on our honeymoon. We plan to go to the beaches in the southwest on October 13 (and we know it might not be the best weather). Do you know how the holiday might affect things on the beaches, and getting to and from the beaches? Do families visit each other over the holiday, or might they be filling up all the resorts on the coast?

Thanks!

Steve

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

Hi Steve,

Do I understand well, and you plan to visit Istanbul for two days, and then head south to let’s say Antalya, but you didn’t make reservations yet?

Erlend

Reply

Steve October 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Hi Erlend,

We have a plane ticket into Istanbul October 12, and departing October 20, but no other reservations. We plan on going to the beaches from October 13-18ish, but haven’t booked anything yet. I’m concerned about (a) all the hotels/resorts filling up on the beaches because of the holiday, (b) our ability to do activities (eating out, snorkeling, boat tours, etc.) at the beaches if things might be shut down, and (c) the ease of travelling back to Istanbul from the beaches during the holiday. I can change our plane tickets if it would be too problematic to travel over this week.

Thanks,

Steve

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Hi Steve,

It’s difficult to give advice on this. First of all, you should know that about 800.000 Turks will go on holiday during this Bayram, and they all have to stay somewhere of course. I would try to find a hotel first!

Also, check airline companies if they still have a flight to your destination (from Istanbul) available.

As for Istanbul, starting the 14th late afternoon, it will be business as usual, with the exception of the Grand Bazaar being closed. All other sightseeing spots should be open, as well as restaurants and boat tours.

I hope this helps,
Erlend

Reply

Mike October 9, 2013 at 4:09 am

Hi every Body,

I like good comments about Istanbul and Kurban happy holidays to you.

From Toronto Canada

Reply

Chris October 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hi Erlend,

Thanks for the great advice. We are arriving in the afternoon Saturday 12 Oct, and it seems the only real impediment will be the grand bazaar and spice market. Do you know what hours the bazaar and spice market will be open from Sat 12 Oct to Monday 14 Oct?

Also, we have a group of 8 friends and would like to contribute to for the bayram – is it possible to purchase a goat or sheep and donate it to the poor? We’d like to make a donation but also take part in the festivities if possible.

Thanks!
Chris

Reply

Erlend Geerts October 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Hi Chris,

I’m afraid I can’t give you exact opening or closing hours on the Bazaars. There are so many shops in there, so they can decide more or less on their own. If I were you, go as early as possible on Monday morning.

As for participating in the bayram, locals either sacrifice a sheep (and give the meat to relatives or poor people) or donate money for good causes controlled by reputable organizations. I think the easiest for you is to do the latter. Some of them are in support of kids fighting leukemia and old people without relatives.

I know that both of these sites are in Turkish only. You can give Google translate a go, or ask help from someone you trust.

Have a nice holiday and thank you for your good intentions.

İyi bayramlar,
Erlend

Reply

Brian Anderson November 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I am not sure where you got your information, but I was just in Turkey during the festival and most of the sacrificed animals were cows and there were no trained butchers where I was, it was the members of the family that killed and butchered and prepared the meat for the family and the poor. I also saw it happen right in the back yards in the city of many homes. So maybe in Istanbul it is prohibited by law but definitely not in the smaller cities and not in local farms.

Reply

Dido May 8, 2014 at 9:47 am

Hi there, please can you advice me, if I come to Istanbul, in the afternnon, on the last day of Ramadan, can I expect Bazars to be open?

Reply

Erlend Geerts May 8, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Yes, but they may close earlier, and it may be hectic.

Reply

Catherine June 23, 2014 at 2:15 am

Hello! We will be arriving in Istanbul on October 3rd this year. Can you advise please, what we should expect that day and also on the 4th?
Thank you!

Reply

Catherine June 23, 2014 at 5:59 am

My understanding is:
10/3: Shops are open in the morning, many will be closed in the afternoon. Grand Bazaar and Spice Market are definitely closed in the afternoon.
10/4: Almost everything is closed or has limited hours.

Reply

Erlend Geerts June 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

Yes, that is correct Catherine.

Reply

Catherine June 26, 2014 at 6:08 am

Dear Erlend,
Thank you very much for your advisement! I appreciate it very much.
Best regards,
Catherine

Reply

Steve July 27, 2014 at 6:22 am

I am arriving in Istanbul Sunday afternoon Oct. 5th and departing Wednesday afternoon Oct. 8th. I understand Kurban Bayrami starts on the 4th and runs through the 7th. Will the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar be closed on all those days? What about Topkapi Palace Museum and other major tourist attractions? Will Hagia Sophia be inaccessible?

Thank you.

Reply

Erlend Geerts July 27, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Hi Steve,

This post on religious holidays and this one on the feast of the sacrifice should provide the info you’re looking for.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: