Five times a day, amplified a cappella rises from thousands of mosques’ minarets across Istanbul, Turkey. It is the Islamic call to prayer, and it leaves an impression.

Undulating voices ebb and flow like the Sea of Marmara’s rhythmic waves washing upon Istanbul’s shores. The cries meet mid-air, interlace, and connect every part of the city like an auditory spiderweb.

Initially the calls to prayer seemed exotic and sometimes even startling. Each one was noteworthy and spurred conversation among my traveling companions.  We were never quite sure when it would next occur, or how close we would be standing to loudspeakers until it happened.

But without even trying, our bodies quickly adapted and internalized the prayer schedule. The singing became just one more part of the background.

By the end of the trip, the songs became a familiar part of the daily routine just like the sunrise, sunset, and meals. I was so accustomed to the five daily calls that I often didn’t take note of them except to subconsciously acknowledge the passage of time.

But even though I stopped noticing them while I was there, their memories left a deep impression and have followed me home.

A couple nights after getting back from Turkey, I enjoyed a beautiful LA sunset. It was a picturesque pink. Shades of neon sifted through hazy clouds and silhouetted palm trees lining a historic block of Mediterranean-styled apartments.

It was practically perfect, and yet my subconscious felt a nostalgic twinge as if something were lacking.

Suddenly I realized what it was: the Islamic call to prayer.

Even though I have never heard the call to prayer in my LA neighborhood, I had been listening to it everyday at sunset for the previous eight days while traveling in Turkey.

It was the first time in over a week I experienced a sunset without a call to prayer soundscape in the background. The nostalgic twinge was my subconscious telling me I missed Istanbul.

— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.


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