A Moment for Remembrance

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Friday, March 23, 2012

A Moment for Remembrance

I am sitting in my room, enjoying the sunlight that falls through the iron filigree window lattice in patterns on the stone floor, thinking of my friends and family at home who are sound asleep as I begin my day in Egypt. My teaching work here is finished; I have time to rest, to read, and for the first time, to really look around me and explore the city. Outside, the call to Friday services is being broadcast. In the Muslim world, Friday is Sunday: a day for gathering, prayer, and time with family.

Here in Cairo, each mosque broadcasts Quran verses and the five daily calls to prayer from speakers high atop the minarets. Devout Muslims stop, face the holy city of Mecca, and kneel to pray; if they are out in public, they find one of the many public prayer rooms in malls and public spaces and pray there. It is important, especially in the conservative community, to honor each of these calls to devotion and connection to God. 

Mosques are everywhere in Cairo, woven tightly into the fabric of everyday life. There are large and small mosques, simple and ornate ones, each one topped by a graceful spire; they are in every neighborhood and sometimes, it seems, on every corner. I asked my host over dinner one evening how many mosques there are in Cairo. He paused to think: in old Cairo, he said, more than a thousand. In the sprawling suburbs north of the city, where we are, no one knows--but there are many.

When I first arrived here, the morning call to prayer (which happens around 4:30 a.m.) woke me up. I wasn't sleeping well, so I learned to relax and practice mindfulness, or say a prayer myself. Later, when I grew so tired that I overcame jet lag and different schedules, I slept through the call--and felt oddly guilty. I've discovered that I like these elegant, poetic reminders about connection: while I have been teaching about our need for connection to children and partners, it is good for each of us to remember to practice self-awareness, and to connect to something larger and greater than each individual. Now, when these lyrical Arabic lines of invitation float through the air, I pause to breathe, to practice gratitude, and to hold compassion for others.

My friend Sherine tells me that in this 21st-century world, there are mobile phone apps you can get that will play the calls to prayer. I like the idea: in my busy life I often forget to carve out time to be mindful, to connect to what matters. Daily life in Egypt has been a graceful reminder of what I know but often forget: life is richer and simpler when we take time for the things that truly matter. I intend to remember--and practice--when I return home. 

| Posted by cheryl | Friday, March 23, 2012|


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