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It seems a common sentiment that there is not enough time in the day, or in life, to do the things we want, or need, to do. No time to do x, y, z. Well, the Ezan makes time, five times every day; for prayer, for patience, for pause, for breath, in the midst of the ever-turning, attention-grabbing, notification-dinging Ferris wheel of modern life.
One of the first things that struck me upon arrival in Istanbul (and everywhere I traveled in Turkey) was the Muslim call to prayer. Known as the Ezan in Turkish, it happens at five set times each day. For additional information on the Ezan, an interested reader may head here.
First impressions of the Ezan? I was struck by how beautiful it was, how quickly it commanded my full attention, and how thankful I was to be able to hear it in the midst of the buzzy streets of Istanbul. To my understanding, the call functions as a regular reminder for those of Muslim faith to pray, facing Mecca, which to me has always seemed a lovely ritual; a regular reminder sounding through the chaos and clutter of days to return focus to purpose, to pay respect and attention to what one holds dear, to pause the conveyor belt of daily life in recurring recognition of belief. The call permeates mountains as well as the movement and machinations of humankind’s daily grind; hopes, sighs, whispers, cracked windows, market transactions, and resplendent sunrises. It reminds me of Buddhist meditation, which includes returning attention to breath in order to increase mindfulness and focus in the midst of a cluttered, busy mind; a continued recall to reconnect with being, knowing one will deviate from what is central in the noise available to experience.
It was interesting to see the different ways respect was shown, by people of all ages, to the call in places of business and homes. Shops turned their music down (or off) while it took place each time, and one of my roommates at a host’s apartment stopped the music we were listening to one afternoon in the living room, to honor the call coming from a mosque just down the street.
Since Ezan struck me so profoundly each time I heard it, in each city, each scene I happened to be a part of in the moment it was emitted across the airwaves of those worlds, I wanted to offer a slice here of some of the moments it took place, from where I was standing, and what I was looking at; for a first-person look-and-listen of what it is like to experience the call from five different perspectives, via four different Turkish cities. I hope you enjoy as much as I did, and hope you get the opportunity to experience this wonderful ritual in person at some point in time. It would be impossible to accurately describe my experience in this country without speaking to the wonder, and connecting beauty, of this call to prayer.