PhotoPOSTcard: The Call to Prayer in Istanbul

Istanbul's Blue Mosque #istanbul #bluemosque #sultanhamet

The first time I ever heard the Islamic call to prayer was in Istanbul on my first visit in 2016. The sun was starting to set as I was taking a break on a bench in the hippodrome area in front of the Blue Mosque. The tulips were in full bloom and the scent of hyacinths was wafting on the early evening breeze.

Without any preamble, the first line of the call to prayer came out over the Blue Mosque’s loudspeakers. With only a few seconds delay the call was repeated by the Hagia Sophia across the way. And then the smaller Firuz Aga Cami mosque behind me picked up the call. As each line was sung by the Blue Mosque’s muezzin, the other two repeated, sometimes calling along in harmony and other times following in succession. All the while, their voices echoed off the surrounding buildings, adding to the acapella harmony. I listened, mesmerized by the sound. In that setting, surrounded by thousands of years of history, it seemed fitting that I should hear this ancient call to prayer for the first time. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard, and it sent shivers down my spine. After about five minutes it was all over, but to this day, I vividly remember the experience.

They say you can never go back, and that the first time for anything is always the most memorable, and that is, in general true. But when I went back to Istanbul this spring, I was once again sitting on a bench in the hippodrome as the sun was setting and the cool evening breeze was blowing. Again, the Blue Mosque started its call, and once again, I listened, mesmerized by the harmonious voices echoing off the ancient stones around me. This was one time, when a repeat experience was just as memorable as the first time.

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