Sunday, March 18, 2007

Interlude. Breaking the sound of silence.

So often when I think back on my trips, I reminisce about the sights I saw, the foods I savored and the people I met. Yet, when I travel I also pay attention to the sounds of the place I'm in as they are often unique and hearing them later on would always evoke memories of my trip. Oddly enough I rarely write about the sounds so I thought I would start with this trip as so many of the sounds are unforgettable. Here's a sample of what I heard travelling through Egypt and Jordan.

Who Needs an Alarm Clock?
....when you can be woken up bright and early each morning (around 5am) by the daily call to prayer. Known Arabic as "adhan", the call to prayer is blasted over the mosque's loudspeakers and there is no such thing as gently turning up the volume - you can hear from a great distance away. The call basically starts out at top volume and stays at that level for the duration of the prayer which I think lasts at least 5-10 minutes. It's repeated 5 times a day.

Here's a sample of a call to prayer. This one was captured midday at the Khan al Khalili bazaar in Cairo. The early morning call to prayer, that jolted me awake each morning we were in Cairo was so harsh in intonation that I felt like I was being scolded by the chanter - even I felt guilty for lingering in bed rather than getting up and praying!! The call in Aswan was much gentler and I actually didn't mind listening to it. In one city (Luxor??), there were two mosques close by and so there was a competing set of calls - it was almost like listening to two men arguing in song!

Honk, Honk, Toot, Toot, Beep, Beep
It's been a long day. You've walked for hours and hours. You're suffering from sensory overload from the sights and sounds of the place you're in. All you want to do is take a shower, crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep.....all possible except if you're staying in a hotel smack dab in the middle of Cairo. If you're one of those lucky folks, here's what you hear as you desperately try to fall asleep.....and the cacophany goes on ALLLL NIGGGHT LOONNNG. It doesn't not stop until well in the early hours of morning and even after that, the sound rings in your ears. Argghh!!

Ee-yore, Ee-yore, Ee-yore
On our first night in Wadi Musa, Jordan, I really wanted to get a good night's sleep so I would be well rested for our return visit to Petra the next day. I crawled into bed and was j-u-s-t about to drift off to sleep when somewhere in the near distance, I heard the sound of a donkey braying and braying and braying and braying. It was either hungry, pissed, scared.....I didn't care....just wanted someone to shut it up so I could sleep. But, it kept on braying....sigh. Eventually, I think it brayed itself to sleep and I could finally get some of my own.

Here's a 30 second sample of what the poor donkey sounded like. When you hear it, you feel like wanting to laugh and cry at the same time - laugh because it does sound funny, like a teenage boy whose voice is changing and cry because it sounds sooooo sad.


Zaghareet. (Pronounced "zah guh REET".) The zaghareet is a high-pitched ululation done with the tongue. It is a sound of celebration associated with weddings, parties, and other joyful occasions