North Cyprus is an Islamic country and, if you live near a mosque, you hear the call to prayer five times throughout the day.
I’ve always loved the call to prayer, I find it devotional, mindful and soulful. I remember hearing it when we lived in Nelson and the call to prayer rang out near the supermarket we were about to enter. A sour-faced looking woman beside us looked startled and asked what it was, another woman nearby told her it was the call to prayer, and I could see the first woman’s face start to tighten, so I said brightly: “It’s a lovely sound, isn’t it?” before she said anything negative.
When we were living in Buyukkonuk, when we first arrived here, we were close to the village mosque and used to hear the call to prayer. I still love it. It reminds me to take a moment’s pause, to enter a quiet space, and simply to reflect on whatever comes to mind at the time. It seems to me that hearing the call to prayer reminds one of the sacred in life on earth, and allows us to reconnect with the sacred, in whatever way it means to us.
I’ve also found that, since arriving here, I’m being drawn to quiet time, reflection and going within. As we’re in a cramped flat, it’s rather hard to get some alone time, but that’s okay. Just withdrawing from an outer life and sitting quietly for a few moments feels really good. And when we move into our new apartment, my workroom – which is at the back of the apartment – will be the ideal venue for meditation and quiet reflection. I’ve also got a dinky little verandah off this room so I can also sit outside and connect with the sounds of nature, as we’re at the end of the block and beside a field full of grass and wildflowers.
I should say that North Cyprus is a very tolerant Islamic society. There is no dress code and you see modern dress, some women wear a scarf and traditional clothing (outside of the main cities, it’s very rural and traditional), there is no observance of Ramadan, and if you want to wander around in light clothing (as British tourists do), there are no restrictions on dress. In fact, when we were in Buyukkonuk and the villagers had turned to repair the thermostat in our water tank, I saw a young man looking (what Ithought) reflective and I thought he was observing a quiet pause. Then he yelled out “Okay” and he’d been helping his father on the roof! There is no observance of the traditional Friday day of rest, instead Sunday is the day of rest here when all shops close except for the supermarkets.
I did read that a religious group had established itself in North Cyprus to spread a return to Islamic religious observances but, as the writer drily observed, they had so far had no success whatsoever! It’s what I love about North Cyprus – the tolerance, openness, friendliness and willingness to give a lending hand at the drop of a hat.
I love being here and I love the call to prayer. I’m at peace.