The muezzin’s call

This item appears on page 31 of the August 2010 issue.

I wanted to react to a comment a subscriber made in reviewing the Hotel Stone in Istanbul (March ’10, pg. 4). He noted two drawbacks of the hotel, the second being its proximity to mosques, where “the morning call to prayer is a wake-up call at around 6 a.m.”

I don’t want to disparage the writer’s likes and dislikes, for we all have them. I just want to say that what is a drawback for one man may be a benefit to another.

Over the years, I made a total of 36 overseas trips, mostly with my wife. We traveled as a couple independently, for that helped me satisfy my travel urge, which was not just to see a country but to try, as much as it was possible, to be a part of it.

This meant finding our own hotels and restaurants, coping with the menus, sorting out the money, struggling with each city’s transportation system, buying food at the markets, sitting at strange bars and ordering strange drinks, walking the streets and finding museums on our own, sitting in the local parks, enjoying the amusement parks and figuring out, especially in rural areas, what the locals were eating so we could taste it too.

It also meant watching whatever entertainment the local citizens were involved in. If they were cheering for the World Cup, we would join them. If a local dance group was doing its thing in the plaza, we’d watch too. If the people were strolling slowly in the evening’s passeggiata (promenade), we’d join them. I was never deluded into thinking my wife and I were a real part of the local culture, but we were as close as tourists could be.

Trying to be a part of the places visited also meant enjoying the smells and sounds, and one of these was the call of the muezzin. For me, it was a lovely sound at any time but especially in the quiet of a morning, before the town awoke to its busy day. Today that call continues to evoke memories of wonderful visits to far-off places. I’m so glad I heard it then so I can remember it now.


West Grove, PA