by Sharon Henry
Muslim call to prayer in Istanbul gave us our most memorable experience in the Turkish city. The Ezan (call to prayer) can be heard throughout the streets of Istanbul six times a day.
Istanbul prayer times vary and are calculated to sunrise and sunset and the geographical position to Mecca. The first is two hours before dawn (!) the last, when the last light of day has disappeared.
As a guide the Ezan times are, dawn before the sun rises, midday , afternoon, and sunset when the sun dips below the horizon.
I found the Arabic prayer chant quite haunting and spellbinding, good thing as our hotel was close to the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque’s loudspeakers…
The week before our visit to Istanbul, microscopic plankton invaded the Bosphorus strait and turned the water such a dazzling turquoise it made headline news around the world. The tiny organisms were still working their magic on our arrival and we could see the phenomenon from our top floor hotel room.
The porter was visibly chuffed with our initial reaction to the view. It was early morning and the sun had painted the Turkish city shades of pink and gold. Directly ahead stood the elegant dome and minarets of the Hagia Sophia museum, on the right sat the equally grand Blue Mosque and the magical Bosphorus shimmered in the distance to the left. The view was so gorgeous it made my heart skip.
Shampoo, Cherries and Coffee – It’s The Little Things
This was our first trip to Turkey. Istanbul made headlines the previous year for very different reasons and family and friends did a double-take at our choice of holiday destination given the political unrest and terrorist attacks. We would’ve done the same save for a feature on BBC’s Travel Show changing our minds. Understandably the country was experiencing a slowdown in tourism but the Beeb thought now was a good time to visit. We booked accommodation at a bargain price right in the heart of the Sultanahmet cultural centre.
We’re suckers for free stuff and the hotel’s good footing continued with a welcome gift of wine and a fruit bowl. I ran an inspection of the balcony, toiletries, coffee and tea facilities whilst Darrin tested the WiFi and self-closing drawers. Unashamedly the novelty of a new hotel room never wears off for both of us!
We unpacked our essentials and made ourselves at home. For an efficient guide on how to pack a carry-on for a month in Europe click here.
Black Out Curtains and Jet Lag
Outside was a world of wonder just waiting to be explored, but we were suffering the effects of a sequence of long haul flights and flopped onto the bed exhausted.
Landing in a new country can be quite disorientating, getting to grips with the strange language, culture and currency can throw you off-kilter, not to mention time zones so it’s best done with a clear head – no matter how excited you are to see the sights (lesson learned in Bangkok.)
So we closed the curtains on the magnificent view and dozed off inside our darkened cocoon lulled by the quiet hum of the ac unit.
The Awakening – The Muslim Call To Prayer in Istanbul
A few hours later a loud voice woke us, a sound so alien it took a moment to register. It was our first experience of the Arabic Ezan call to prayer in Istanbul. Having only heard this in movies I leapt out of bed and rushed onto the balcony for a better listen. The singing in a foreign tongue reverberated across the city amplified by speakers mounted on the minarets of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Our close proximity gave us front row seats to a chant so soulful it stirred something within, quickly reminding me I was in an exotic and faraway land.
And that’s when it happened – just how the plankton did magic on the river, the city cast a spell on me – I was bewitched and ready to discover Istanbul.
Have a listen to our audio recording (apologies for the low quality) of the Muslim Call to Prayer in Istanbul done from our balcony one evening.