Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - No comments

Journey to Jordan #4: Audible Amman

The call to prayer that woke me at 4:20 on my first morning here was the most beautiful ezan I’d ever heard.  

It was so soft, so near and so pronounced that it sounded more like it was playing from a radio on my nightstand than sounding from a minaret outside somewhere.  I heard a single voice - not at all like the cacophony that always jerks me awake on the first night of a stay in Sultanahmet when all ten mosques within ear shot are competing with each other.  The voice was humble, with none of the drama and gusto of the muezzins back home.  No static or screechy loudspeaker effect, either.  No, this guy was pure pleasure to listen to, with vocals like a boy-band pop star gone religious.  

I could make out every word, and I was so intrigued that I wanted to stay awake and listen.  (Not that the rooster accompanying him really gave me a choice.)  When he finished the call, the melodic rise and fall of a Qu’ran recitation began, followed by the muffled sound of prayers coming from multiple mosques.  About fifteen minutes later, the ezan was sung again (that voice...) and then he repeated the words to the call in a speaking voice.

God is great.
There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet.
Come and pray.  Come and pray.
To pray is better than to sleep....

For the first time I understand what all those guide book writers and romantic wandering nomads mean when they describe the call as “hauntingly beautiful” and “mesmerizing.”  

Clearly the key is to find someone to read it who sounds more like Bruno Mars and less like the rooster.


The fact that I was still getting over a bad cold when we got here meant I took the opportunity to get as much rest as possible.  Translation:  I slept (off and on) for fourteen hours the first night.  Lying in bed afforded me the opportunity to “listen to the neighbourhood” a whole lot.  It’s amazing how much you can learn about a place without even opening your eyes.  Here are my “audible first impressions”:
  • There is a nearby school whose “bell” is Fur Elise.... Must be a universal choice of bells, as many schools in Turkey use the same song.  (Right along with Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  Go figure.)
  • Lots of honking, screeching of tires and the occasional police or ambulance siren.
  • The birds are celebrating the arrival of spring.  One, in particular, sounds JUST like our doorbell at home, and it’s got me constantly thinking I need to jump up and see who’s there.
  • Apparently these are the first warm days they’ve had here, and all the neighbourhood kids are out in force.  The shrieks and laughter got particularly exuberant when several little boys were up trying to fly kites on their respective roofs.  Not much wind to help their cause, but I admire their tenacity.
  • There is a constant flow of trucks coming by with guys yelling over loudspeakers.  If I didn’t know better, I might assume they are spouting angry propaganda and be tempted to be afraid.  But the cadence of their voices and the length of the sentences sound exactly like the guys who drive around our neighbourhood yelling, “Potatoes, one lira!  Onions, one lira!  Watermelon, one lira!”  (For how garbled their words are over the PA, those guys back home might as well be speaking Arabic!)
  • Every fifteen to twenty minutes, a truck goes by playing a song that conjures up images of a Chinese ice cream truck - all tinny, like a discordant music box.  My hosts later confirmed my hunch - it’s the gas tank delivery guy.  He must literally just drive up and down the hills all day, because his song ebbs and flows but is never quite out of earshot.  I think I’ll be hearing it in my sleep.