No one can visit the metropolis of Istanbul without hearing the sound of the ezan, the meticulously timed calls to prayers that emanate from the towering minarets of mosques that dot the city. The calls, which are more like musical chants and songs, occur five times a day, summoning the faithful to prayer according to Islamic law and practice. The exact times of prayer change every day based on the position of the sun, but the five calls (Sabah, Öğle, İkindi, Akşam, and Yatsı) are all calculated, so that at any moment you can be walking in some parts of the city and hear four or five callers going off at once, just slightly offset from one another. I’m a bit confused over the exact timing of the morning call, as it is broken down into two important times, İmsak and Güneş; it is written in some places that there are supposed to be six calls, but I’ve only ever heard five. The morning call is the longest, and some say the spookiest sounding. In any case, hearing them is a sometimes surreal experience – almost like the city itself is singing, right on cue. It’s so regular that you start to forget it’s even happening every day.
I recorded an evening call to prayer from the local neighborhood mosque, Nafiz Baba Camii. You can hear the call going out through the neighborhood, yet also hear life in the city go on: cars and buses on the road, students eating at a cafe, a saleswoman peddling flowers, friends greeting each other on the sidewalk. It’s an interesting contrast between a call for pause and reflection and the hustle and bustle of a modern city – in a way a contrast between a traditional past and the fast-paced future.