By Roxanne Roberts–The Washington Post–July 5th, 2015

Ramadan is an intensely social, celebratory time not unlike the Christmas holiday season in the United States. Iftar dinners can be elaborate spreads; hosts compete for guests and throw impressive, sumptuous meals. Most Iftar dinners begin with dates and water, then can range from modest to magnificent.

“Imagine if you had Thanksgiving dinner every night for a month,” Al-Sabah says.

Emre Celik doesn’t have to imagine. The president of the Rumi Forum, a Turkish interfaith organization, attends an Iftar dinner almost every night during Ramadan. The group, along with the Turkic American Alliance, hosted a dinner for government officials, diplomats and other guests on June 18, the first night of Ramadan. Since then, Celik has either hosted or been a guest at interfaith Iftar dinners all over the Washington area.

“People love the food and the hospitality,” he says. “And the mix of people.”

Unlike those who sleep past dawn, Celik adheres to a stricter schedule: He ends his fast after sunset, then always wakes up in the middle of night to eat suhoor, a traditional meal served before the sun begins to rise.

A typical 24 hours for him looks like this: breaking the fast around 8:45 p.m. with dinner and conversation. If he’s lucky, he’s home by 10:30 p.m., then prayers. He gets about three hours of sleep, then leaves at 2:30 a.m. to attend a suhoor. “It’s a VIP breakfast, but at 3 a.m.,” he explains. Then he may get a couple more hours of sleep; all told, he gets four to five hours a night, then spends the day in the office until the cycle begins again.

“The first two or three days can be quite difficult,” Celik says. “But the rest of the month can be quite pleasant.” And the long days? “I’m being spiritually rewarded more.”

For all the challenges, it’s worth it, everyone says.

“You get to slow down and think a little more,” Ellison says. “I think that makes me a better person, and anything that makes me a better person makes me more effective representing other people.”

Read the full story here.