December 20, 2009

Listening For the Call

The call to prayer is a fact of life here in Abu Dhabi. It is broadcast five times a day.

I like it, for the most part. It gives me an idea of the time (dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset, night) and it is a pleasant melody. It reminds me of a cantor chanting in a synagogue, oddly enough.

The call here seems different than in other Muslim countries I've visited. My recollections of Marrakech and Cairo are that the recordings are high-pitched and scratchy. Not at all pleasant.

Here, there is a mosque approximately every 300 meters -- at least one in every residential block -- so it is unusual to be out of range of the call. A person is not expected to cross a major street to get to the mosque. And if you have to go five times a day, it needs to be convenient.
(Let's leave aside for the time being the question of how anyone gets any work done ...)

At the newspaper, there is a mosque down the street, and a special mosque for workers of our company (not unusual). The speaker is right outside the entrance where I sit, so I hear it all the time. I'm often surprised to hear it, as in "Huh, it's already 7 p.m.?"

Our new apartment is about 150 meters from the mosque in our block of villas, and the sound bounces around our little patio. Our apartment is U-shaped, with the patio between the two sides. We keep the windows open this time of year, and the call to prayer is really the only thing we hear outside of the chirping birds and the hum of traffic from a nearby major road.

But I didn't expect to hear it quite so loudly in the morning. when we were at the hotel, we could hear it through the double-paned glass, and I only heard the noon-time call. Paul would know he had stayed up too late if he heard the morning call.

For the last few days, I have been woken by the call at dawn. It startles me, and incorporates itself into my dreams. Clearly, I'm not sleeping very well if it's waking me. I suppose it's a better way to be woken than having a cat poke me in the nose. It's slightly more subtle.

And I always know what time it is.

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