Appreciating the “soundtrack of Cairo”

Cultural Insights, Travel Perspectives — By on February 26, 2007 at 11:35 am

During my own travels in parts of the Middle East, one of my strongest memories is of the rhythmic beauty of the Islamic call to prayer, which is heard five times each day from the minarets of every mosque in every city and village in the region.  So I could appreciate this recent essay in the Christian Science Monitor, written by Marcella Prokop, which recounted memories of her time in Cairo, Egypt, and in particular the timeless chant of the call to prayer.

An American student in this historic city, I am in awe of the endless sounds, the ever-present taxis, and the liquid curves and solid dots of the Arabic script. The scents of Cairo beckon to me not unlike a wispy cartoon finger of smoke. The fruit-infused haze from the tea shops, the scent of lamb and peppers roasting on a spit, and my own cucumber-melon lotion – all these memories are now and will forever be part of Cairo to me.

The Nile, the Sphinx, the pyramids are also forever locked in memory, but there is something more poignant, something sharper that resonates internally when I think of Cairo. It is the azan, the call to prayer, that anchors my thoughts when they drift to Cairo. …

The effect of the call is the same no matter the timbre or clarity: The words of ancient humanity swirl around me as I pause while shopping, dining, or even golfing – and become one with time and history, one with religion and civilization. … The call is beautiful to me. I am moved to my core by its reassurance, its grace, and its timelessness.

For additional information on the call to prayer, you can read this wikipedia entry.

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