Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Istanbul 01: Call to Prayer

Five times a day the call issues forth from the amplified speakers mounted atop the minarets. These days, the muezzin need not bother climbing the steps up the tower. Because of my training, I wonder (fully aware that I am alone in this) about the metaphysical implications of relying so on technology.

You hear the short buzz and click of the microphone being turned on before the call actually begins. Sometimes you can make out a word; most notable, of course: “Allah,” even though it’s stretched beyond comprehension like countless amen’s of so many Christmas carols.

We arrived too late the first night. Old Istanbul was fast asleep by the time our shuttle reached the hotel. In the morning—even earlier, perhaps, with jetlag and insomnia factored in—the call shocked me awake, but not before shifting my otherwise mundane dreams into vivid Technicolor animation about a drunken vampire. I wanted it to shut up, to go away.

But when the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) is directly across the street from your hotel, just beyond the paved track of the ancient Byzantine hippodrome, it is up to you to get used to it.

When I see Arabic written, I think of snakes, thanks to Sonia, who, so many years ago, once referred to it as “that snake language.” Every letter looks like a serpent—some with eyes, some with curved tails. Each hissing out the mysterious beauty of that ancient desert tongue. Hearing it—and I’m only assuming that the liturgical language of Turkey is (still) Arabic—made me think of snakes flying through the air, twisting their way into the ears of the devotees.

The call lasts for several minutes. At times, it seems endless, and at other times, abrupt and too quickly ended. And the echoes across Istanbul from the other mosques make it seem even more enigmatic and not of this world.

The evening call retained its splendor and sublimity throughout my entire stay, but already by the third day, I was sleeping through the morning call like a local.

No comments:

Post a Comment