With all the traditional aspects of enjoying and marking the Holy Muslim month of fast, Ramadan, people in Turkey have an opportunity not just to experience Turkish Ramadan traditions but those of people from many other Islamic countries and communities, as the International Ramadan Festival greets visitors for the fourth time in Ankara’s major municipality of Kecioren. Kecioren Municipality Mayor Mustafa Ak told KUNA, Thursday, that the aim of the Ramadan-long fest is to promote appreciation and interaction among Muslim peoples, and stressed such events play a part in bolstering relations between nations. The visitors can enjoy performances by folklore and art groups, see samples of art work reflecting something related to Ramadan or the country’s culture, Sufi performances and chanting, poetry readings, storytelling, and glimpses of traditional attire and a taste of traditional cuisines, and much more, according to the festival program. Contributing to this great tapestry of color, sound, and aroma this year are people from different regions of Turkey along with people from 22 other countries including Sudan, Palestine, northern Iraq, states from the Balkans such as Albania and Central Asia, and some African countries. One African country attracting much attention is Morocco, and its Sufi and folklore performances on stage on the “Moroccan Night” proved audience favorites. Aside from the stage which is set up in a building of classical Turkish architecture, the participating parties themselves were each assigned a corner to display what they will with the aim of shedding light on their heritage and history. This is in addition to the organizing of a night for each group with a program of artistic and dance and chanting performances and whatever else they deem suitable. The Kecioren Municipality Mayor, Mustafa Ak, stressed “the Turkish people have a thirst for knowledge about other Islamic countries’ culture and customs, and believe that the differences among Muslim peoples’ customs is in fact what lends the Islamic culture its richness and authenticity of identity. The mayor expressed hope to see more Arab countries in particular taking part next year. He noted a drop in this year’s Arab representation and attributed it to the state of political flux and uncertainty and recent and ongoing change in many Arab countries. Particularly and sorely missed this year was Egypt, he pointed out as an example. To guarantee the success of this important event, the municipality intends to extend official invitation to all Arab countries for next year’s festival, he said. Another means to ensure more participation is signing of twinning agreements between Turkish and Arab towns. Kecioren is committed to this last idea, he added. Enjoying the many sights and inhaling the aromas under the many flags and banners at the festival was Khalil Shaheen and his small family. He told KUNA he visited all four festivals and comes across something new and interesting every year. He stressed that in addition to the pleasure one derives from visiting such a place, he noticed how the displays and performances go beyond enriching one’s knowledge of other nations and peoples to actually correcting some of the false notions one has about them. The Turkish visitor remarked he is repeatedly amazed at how diverse Arab cultures and customs are, having earlier thought they were one and the same. The art displays and performances showed uniqueness in specific customs and traditions, and dialects, beyond the collective appreciation of a set of shared “Arab” values. Each people reflect this set of values in their own way, he said. Proving the festival is indeed meeting its objective, Shaheen told KUNA he was also struck by how much Turkish and Arab peoples have in common. “There is much that we share in religious customs, arts, cuisine and more which way outweighs what divides us.” When it comes to popularity with visitors, Mayor Ak said thousands have visited since launch of the festival on the first of Ramadan. The popularity is due in part to the successful media campaign announcing the many events and is also due to the richness and beauty of all there is to see, hear, and experience.