A very pleasant surprise!

So far I have really been enjoying Istanbul. The food, the people, the liveliness and energy that fills the air, its all so exciting! It’s hard to even know where to begin with a blog post. I have been capturing time-lapses, and photos, and none have seemed right for the blog, until today’s experience with the call to prayer.

For those of you who don’t know, all the mosques in Istanbul broadcast a call to prayer, 5 times every day (It’s a ritual called the ezan). A person, called the muezzin recites the Kalimah, or statement of faith, which is the first of the five pillars of Islam, over loudspeakers located on the platforms of the minarets. Traditionally there would have been a muezzin on each platform during the call, however modern times have replaced their appearance with loudspeakers, reducing the number of muezzins needed for the call.

I remember the first time I heard the ezan when we got here. I was unpacking in our apartment, and I heard a strange song coming from a tinny loudspeaker. I couldn’t make out any words (I still can’t really) and I remember wondering what was going on. I heard it again later and realized that this must be the call to prayer. What I was not prepared for was the morning call to prayer! I woke up from our first night in Istanbul with an eerie song coming in the window, I forgot about the call to prayer, and thought someone was outside my window with a bullhorn! Now when I remembered it was the call, my reaction was: This is going to get really old, really quick!

That is simply not the case.

We are approaching two weeks here in Istanbul already (Time flies!) and the call just gets more beautiful every time! I have found some of my favorite moments of Istanbul have been looking out over the city and hearing the ezan swell from all the corners of the city. Despite the fact that it wakes me up before my alarm (I miss sleeping in) I think the call to prayer will be one of the things I miss most when we go back home. Its such a nice and relaxing sound to hear anytime of day, and unique depending on where you are at the time of the ezan.

I guess that brings us up to Today’s experience with the call to prayer, which I don’t think will be beat. Ozayr took us to the Suleymaniye mosque (The largerst mosque in Istanbul) for our visual culture class, to experience one of Sinan the architect’s masterpieces, visit his tomb, and sketch of course! He was persistent about staying on time after leaving, and not getting lost as he mysteriously led us down some back streets to the Buyuk Valide Han. After speaking with the caretaker, Ozayr instructed us up to the roof, where we stepped out into quite an amazing 360 degree view of the city. From this rooftop we could see a glimpse of everything. The most notable structures in sight were of course, all the minarets across the city.

You know what happened next, right? The call to prayer. From our perch on the roof we could hear the call from what felt like hundreds of mosques. Some were closer, some were further, but they all created an amazing soundtrack from what could totally be a scene in a movie.

Speaking of which, did you know that 007 Skyfall (The 2012 Bond Film) opened with a scene in Istanbul?

Here is a link to watch the opening motorcycle chase:


Watch closely as the man he is chasing, gets cut off, and turns right up a staircase through a corridor and up onto the roofs. Want to know where that was filmed? The same place we were today! We climbed up those stairs and onto the roof for the call to prayer. Pretty amazing view from the rooftops! I couldn’t imaging riding a motorcycle up there though…

I have also included a short clip of our experience with the ezan today. It was truly something so perfect I thought it could only happen in movies. (Bond however did not experience the ezan during his high-speed rooftop chase…)


  1. Jen

    I’ve never captured a really great recording of this experience – but now I have this one! I’m sure I’ll revisit your post many times in years to come when I’m thinking about Istanbul. Thank you Jack!

  2. Pingback: Highlights | University of Minnesota Rome -Istanbul Study Abroad Spring 2016

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