Suitcase and World: Adhan.

Monday, December 1, 2008


dhan is the Islamic call to prayer that is called out by the muezzin in the mosque, sometimes from a minaret, five times a day summoning Muslims for fard (mandatory) salah (prayers). Living in the US, I don't hear the adhan being called on a daily basis so the first few times I do hear it (no matter where I am in the world), it's jolting - especially the early morning adhan which is recited before the sun rises. But like every other thing of habit, you soon get used to it and you don't even notice it.

Phrases of the adhan sum up the basic tenets of the the Holy Quran ( Qu'ran ) and vary slightly from one Islamic sect to another. Even though the phrases of the adhan are the same no matter who recites it, every muezzin has their distinctive calling style. When Lei and I were in Cairo, we found the muezzin to recite with a very harsh tone - hearing him made us feel like he was scolding us. Even I felt like I should head for the mosque to pray. In Aswan, the muezzin was very melodic in his delivery - it was a pleasure to listen to the call.

In Istanbul, I happened upon the early afternoon adhan during a stroll through the Hippodrome. There were two muezzins calling - one from Sultanahment (Blue) Mosque and the other from a nearby mosque. I don't know if each was reciting the adhan in its entirety or if they were trading off on phrases but it was definitely a call style I had not heard before and both muezzins were reciting with such palpable passion - you could feel it in their voices as they caressed each musical note. It was such an unusual adhan and it was taking place in such a wonderful location that I decided to capture it all on video. In the video, I'm walking from the Hippodrome to Sultanahmet Park. At the end of the video, you'll see the Aya Sophia on one end of the park and the Blue Mosque on the other. But what you really need to appreciate is the beautiful adhan that provides the background audio.