I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve changed as a person over the course of my time here, but, seeing as I can’t fully qualify how I’ve changed, I thought it would be more useful and interesting to explore how my relationship with Turkey has changed over the past few months. I’m going to use the example of the mosque and the müezzin (the man who leads the Friday prayers in a mosque and calls out the five daily invocations to prayer from the minaret.)
This was the first picture I took in Turkey, and it is, as you can see, a mosque. I was standing on the terrace of a hotel in the oldest part of the city and looking over the Sea of Marmara and the setting sun over the rooftops really enchanted me. This was also the first mosque I had seen first-hand, so I thought I should catalogue the occasion. But while I was enchanted by this building at sunset, come morning, I was feeling far less charitable towards it. You see, this part of the city slopes quite steeply towards the sea, so my hotel was uphill from the mosque. Unfortunately, this meant that topography had conspired to put my third story room rather close to the speakers on that minaret, and at sunrise (this was still late summer, so sunrise was around six in the morning) I was awoken by the call to prayer. Keep two things in mind: In the Old City, all calls are electronically enhanced, with each mosque seeming to compete with every other to have the most clarion call, and I had just gotten off a trans-Atlantic flight less than twelve hours previously and was severely jet-lagged. At the moment, I wished for nothing more than some easily ignored church bells, preferably in a steeple not located directly adjacent to my eardrum.
This is the same building by daylight, so you can see the contrast in lighting.
So my first daytime experience with a müezzin had not at all gone in my favor. I managed to roll over and go back to sleep after about fifteen minutes, after all the mosques in the neighborhood had stopped the call.
The next few days I got used to the dawn call, and then I went traveling outside of İstanbul for the next few weeks, and so most of the hostels I was staying at were not next door to mosques. When I returned, I moved into the apartment I would be living in for my time at university, since the school year was about to start. This apartment was much further north within the city (I’ll be posting a map soon so people can get their bearings) and while there was a mosque in the neighborhood, it was much closer to the university main gate than to my apartment. I came to associate the two much like I used to associate school bells with schools when I was younger; the mid-day prayers remain at the same time of day regardless of the time of year, more or less, so when I heard the mid-day müezzin call, I knew that it was near to noon, and that if I wasn’t already at the main gate, I was going to be late to noon class. After a while, especially during study break, I didn’t even hear the mosque consciously. It had become part of the aural landscape. In fact, when I ended up traveling to Georgia during mid-term break with friends, the sound of church bells actually ended up pleasantly surprising me. So, in a way, I feel like I culturally assimilated to the five-day prayer cycle. It’s part of why I already miss living there, since it really felt like home after a few months.