At 5 o’clock this morning I was greeted by the haunting beauty of the call to prayer. Each time I’m back in the Middle East, the first morning reminds me of how deeply I miss its soothing sounds. It’s funny, the way something once unfamiliar becomes part of you. The way its rhythm enters your soul and brings you a sense of peace and serenity.It wasn’t always like that. I remember my first apartment in Ramallah (Palestine). It was right next door to the local mosque. At 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, as it belted out at full volume, it felt like someone was standing right beside me, shouting wildly in my ear. In the early days, before I understood the language, the morning prayers seemed to be an assault on my senses, an attack on my liberties. It was implausible to me that the people hadn’t rebelled, hadn’t had a revolution against the 5am madness.
Over time, the calls to prayer became an expected part of the day. And then, especially in the morning, the call became a time that I looked forward to, a time that was deeply personal and soothing. Imagine this: in the darkness before the dawn, in the moments before sleep turns to wakefulness, the haunting, but soothing sounds of the call to prayer flow like the warm desert breeze through your open window. Your eyes are closed, but your mind is alive, and in these few moments, when dream and consciousness merge, the greatest ideas, the starkest images, and your intuitive inner voice – they all emerge and become one. Whether you rise, or roll over, those moments are the most precious of the day, for they belong to you, and only you.
I miss these moments when I’m not in the Middle East. I miss living in lands where 5 times a day, the call to prayer gives us permission to take time out of our busy lives and create a moment of stillness, a moment of quiet. It is in those moments when my creativity is at its best.I’m so glad to be back.
A recording of the morning call to prayer in Dubai