meddahs told stories in instalments every evening,
like modern television serials, so that their
audiences would be attracted to the coffee houses
the following night to hear what happened next.
A different shadow play was performed on each
of the 28 evenings, and the title of the next
day's play was announced at the end of each
performance. The mosques were decorated with
illuminated inscriptions and pictures formed
by oil lamps strung up between the minarets
by means of pulleys. Known as mahya, these illuminations
were an art that required great skill. Today
electric lightbulbs are used instead of lamps.
Mahya illuminations date back to the 17th century
and were initially restricted to Ramazan, but
during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730)
illuminations were extended to include religious
festivals. Illuminated inscriptions were of
a religious nature, such as 'Welcome to Ramazan'
or the names and attributes of God, while the
pictures included carnations, tulips, mosques,
bridges, caiques, ships, birds, fish, houses,
fountains or carriages.