The call to prayer

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October 26th 2010
Published: November 15th 2010
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As far as exotic sounds go, the Islamic call to prayer is up with the best. Like chirping cicadas, or the call of an elephant, it's one of the sounds that makes me feel far from home, and realise I'm not walking down Walton Street anymore. I heard it first in India, got transfixed by it in Zanzibar, but here in Al Azhar Park in Cairo, it's breathe-taking, unbelievable, and unbeatable.

The park is built on a hill to the east of Cairo, and has 360 degree views of the Islamic part of the city, where minarets and mausoleums risie out of the narrow passageways and dominate the skyline (although they're now being enveloped by the ever encroaching satellite dishes). As the sunsets in the distance, bathing the limestone buildings with warm autumn sunshine, the sound of cars fades into the distance, and the city seems to slow down, at least just for a second. And then, as green lights flicker into action on the many minarets across the city, a thousand Imams call the faithful to prayer, their tones echo around the winding streets, and becoming a cacophony of praise to Allah.

It only last for a few minutes, but it feels like hours, and the words stay echoing around my head for a long time after the prayers have been finished for the day. It's one of the most fantastic sounds I've been lucky enough to hear. It's impossible not to be taken back by it all. And it's yet another moment when I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.


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