I wonder if it is the call to prayer that makes Istanbul so charming. This city is vibrant. The food has been one great meal after another, the sights are fantastically ancient, and the number of people walking around brings back memories of Hong Kong. And like any city there is construction, loud neighbors, and traffic. Let me tell you that Los Angeles is the minor leagues as far as congestion is concerned.
But I mention the call to prayer because despite all of the hustle, steep cobblestone alleyways, and the sometimes-crushing crowds, there is a chill vibe that resonates underneath it all. Shop owners hang out in front of their places of business, people sit in cafes, and children take care of the numerous street cats that inhabit this city. My very limited understanding of the call to prayer is literally that – when the chant comes on, it is time to stop and pray.
I have often called China soulless. I am positive some people would disagree but I would be hard pressed to change my opinion. Maybe here in Istanbul it is the (five-times) daily reminder to think of something or someone other than yourself that is what motivates the residents of this city to stop and reflect, whether they actually kneel down on a carpet or not. Who among us doesn’t need a moment to reflect upon our own actions and perhaps be thankful for what we have? Or maybe ask for some strength or a bit of help in one area or another in our lives? Who doesn’t need a bit of forgiveness every now and then? For me, it’s not really a matter of which religion really because deep down, aren’t most religions ideally just guides for being an overall better human being?
Look, I personally think that five-times a day is a lot and quite honestly, that call to prayer can be ‘cover my ears’ loud with competing mosques and numerous speakers. However, since I have been here, I haven’t heard it much but when I have, it serves to remind me to quietly ask myself if I am acting like a good person and to be thankful for what I have. And if I am being honest, maybe some Turkish Delight. I am only human.