One of the most striking things about Istanbul is hearing the Islamic call to prayer sung five times a day, every day. Called the adhan, it’s audible from just about every pocket of the city, thanks to loudspeakers atop each of Istanbul’s thousands of mosques.
The adhan both summons people to come worship (not unlike church bells) at designated times of the day and reminds those within earshot of the beliefs of Islam (at least for those who understand Arabic).
Hearing it for the first time when we visited a couple years ago was an unforgettable experience. We happened to be standing in front of Istanbul’s largest mosque at sunset when we heard a distant, melodious voice recite the first few verses of the adhan from a neighboring mosque. Then, it abruptly blared out from the minaret soaring above us. It was at that moment we realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore, so to speak. Here’s the video:
While it doesn’t jolt me like it did the first time I heard it, I still can’t help but be struck by the way it reverberates throughout the city, even one week and dozens of adhans later. Most people here don’t even seem to notice it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get to that point.