At first, it didn’t seem so different from another favorite place of ours, Bequia. We walked off the plane, down onto the tarmac, and the warm air of the country told us immediately we weren’t in Europe anymore. The hotel taxi driver, who met us at the arrival lounge, loaded our luggage into a van and off we went. Yes, there were many, many people on motorbikes and mopeds. The signs, of course, were in Arabic.
The Medina, the walled old city, is lined with orange trees bearing fruit. We turned into it, through a small opening, and that’s when it really changed. While negotiating down one small lane, through a throng of people, past mopeds, we stopped behind another car whose driver had stepped out of the car and was motioning to our driver that he couldn’t go forward.
The reason? Prayers had started. And sure enough, when I looked, the entire street in front of this other man’s car was filled with men on their knees, bending forward in prayer. When our driver rolled down his window to ask a passer-by to help him negotiate driving backwards out of the street, the sounds of the call to prayer wafted into the car.
Five times a day (starting at 6 am) loud speakers from the top of the mosques amplify the melody of the prayer. It is completely a foreign sound to me. There is nothing European about it. At least for me, it switches from sounding eerie to calm. It is always a man’s voice, and the prayer lasts less than 2 minutes. Men don’t throw themselves on the ground everywhere, however, when the prayers start. For example, I watched one of our waiters at an outdoor restaurant simply mouth the words to the prayer as he paused while on the job. I would love to see inside one of the mosques, but because I’m not a Muslim, I can’t. I think there is one in Fez that is open to tourists, and it seats something like 50,000 people. But when you pray literally touching your neighbor on each side of you, you can pack a lot of people into a small space.
It doesn’t feel overbearing at all. To me, it seems like the perfect reminder to the devoted to remember what is important to them.