Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A daily reminder

Fajr, dhuhr, asr, maghrib, isha.

Pre-dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, evening.

They are the five prayer calls of Islam, and it doesn't take long here before they become touchstones throughout your day. You can hear them almost everywhere, indoors or out, which is not surprising when you consider there are more than 5,000 mosques in Abu Dhabi. There are three within 200 yards of my apartment, and at least 10 within a one-mile radius. There's even one on the grounds at work.

There was a time when a man climbed the minaret at each mosque and issued the call to prayer, but these days, most mosques broadcast a recorded call over loudspeakers.

They all begin at the same moment, which can create an eerie sound when you're in an open area and can hear the calls from several mosques at once. This is especially noticeable along the Corniche, where you can hear the calls echoing off the towers of the city and booming back toward the beach.

It's a unique sound, not quite a melody but pleasant nonetheless. It can be jarring when it wakes you in the pre-dawn darkness – somehow, it seems louder then – but most times, for non-Muslims, it's just a subtle reminder of the passing of the day.

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