Travel / Turkey

Istanbul’s five-a-day, the call to prayer

Before I arrived, my friend told me, “it’s magical”. Even if she wasn’t Islamic, (nor Christian or Jewish), the call to prayer, as she was referring to, brings out one’s spiritual side. I didn’t know if I should cry, pray, or simply carry on, she told me.DSC_0247

I wasn’t dubious, but as someone who has become extremely passive about religion, I questioned my own reaction to it. It was within ten minutes of stepping off the bus, (my first actual step into Turkey), that I heard it. A helpful Finnish friend herded me toward the ferry where I sat when it sounded. Turkish, I will tell you, is a linguistic high hurdle. As the boat drifted between continents, (the city of Istanbul is singular in staking such a claim), I heard the erie echo that can only be it. The call to prayer.

I describe it as such because as my friend told me, words can’t describe it. Thus, it’s my best attempt.

DSC_1669DSC_1681A city of three empires, Istanbul is already highly iconic. But listening to a bellowing voice in Arabic while “the old city” looms ahead, well, it’s simply poetic. The indiscernible voice praising Allah isn’t just a prayer, or rather, a call to one. It’s more akin to a lullaby that a mother sings.


According to the brochure, “What is Islam?”, which is readily available for free in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque for converts or curious observers (like me), the call to prayer is determined by the sun’s movement. Thus, it changes from winter to summer and accordingly, one’s place in the world. As the brochure says, one can believe at every moment, somewhere, there’s someone praying.

I won’t be a convert, but the Islamic way is undoubtably intriguing. As traveling teaches you, there’s so much you don’t know. DSC_1898


14 thoughts on “Istanbul’s five-a-day, the call to prayer

  1. I really loved hearing the calls in morocco too. It was one of my favorite things about visiting a Muslim country, especially when you hear all the calls competing against each other, coming in and out in waves

    • It’s currently Ramadan, which means the octaves of sound have hit belting point. It’s such a beautiful reminder of the passing of the hour, day, and time. How are your workaway exchanges going?

      • Amazingly! They’re kind of addictive! We are on our second one now and headed to the third in a couple of weeks. How is yours?

      • Great as well! It’s even better than I expected (and I have a problem with setting high expectations). Where are you now?

      • Right now in Leipzig working at a house project where they bought an abandoned building and are renovating it and have put in a cafe downstairs and a daycare. Its really cool. The city in general is doing some really innovative things to better itself. Im so jealous youre in Turkey! Youre doing marketing stuff?

      • That sounds awesome! It’s amazing to see how innovative some of the European cities are. Have you been to Antwerp yet? It seems to embody that ideal. It’s big on my list to visit. Next time…

        Turkey is great. I’m currently working as a photography assistant at an agency near the Mediterranean. Pretty ideal. 🙂

  2. I also really enjoyed the call to prayer and even found myself trying to visit a mosque accidentally during prayer time, and instead “visited” by sitting on the second women’s floor during a prayer service. The short recording I made of the service that day has been one of my all time favorites, I still listen to it from time to time.

    Melodic, a lullaby, indeed.

    • Wow. What a brilliant idea! I also slipped into a prayer, but I was far more conspicuous. Luckily, I was invited in so it was deemed okay, except my lack of a head scarf–which was quickly fixed. After crossing into Greece, it seems so strange not hear the call to prayer!

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