Cleansing Their Souls in the Bosphorus
At the tip of the famed Golden Horn in Istanbul, men spontaneously gather every Friday evening during the holy month of Ramadan to enact an ancient cleansing ritual by jumping into the Bosphorus.
During Ramadan the men only swim on Friday after they break the Islamic Ramadan fast. However, the rest of the year the men swim everyday even during Istanbul’s bitterly cold winter.
The swimmers explain that for them this daily ritual of jumping into the Bophorus cleans them of all physical toxins. Many of the men say that they never get sick, even when they jump into the icy Bosphours in the winter.
One of the group’s leaders, Haci Sahin, 55, explains about winter swimming, “It is so beautiful and… well of course it is cold. But your body has a wonderful capacity to acclimate. Really we don’t even shiver when we get in. Nothing. To have the chance to experience this is amazing.”
Mark Schurmann, 39, from San Francisco said he was unsure he would get into the Bosphorus in the winter. Said Schurmann, “That current looks pretty strong. No, I don’t think given if there were snow and this was the middle of January or February I think I’d have to think twice before stepping in there.”
First the men break the religious Ramadan fast with a meal at the evening “iftar” call to prayers. After the iftar meal the men pray and then, fortified by home-cooked food, run about a mile up the Bosphorus.
Then it is into the sea! On the word “Şimdi!”, which means “Now!” the men all jump into the water and wash away the difficulties of their lives.
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