Last night in Mostar, I walked home from the English department meeting at the University. I passed college students eating pitas ( fillings wrapped in phyllo), drinking coffee, smoking. I passed the evening parade of dogwalkers. I passed young children playing. I passed shops of people looking at shoes. ( Shoe stores on every corner.) Then I crossed the river, and headed to my apartment in the Old City. Same scene: people drinking coffee, smoking, talking, and children playing. Just as I turned up my crooked little street, just as I turned past the neighborhood Mosque, the evening call to prayer began. There is a beauty in the sound as the call echoes in the cool dusk sky. It followed me all the way to my apartment, nestled against the hills.
I am not a religious person, raised and am an atheist, and so, perhaps, I find the call to prayer compelling because of my lack of belief. The crackIing of the tape recorder as it starts, stops and starts again is not so much a novelty to my American ear as it is a chance to stop and think. Who am I? Where am I? A reminder to simply Be.
All around me, people continue to play, talk, drink coffee, shop for shoes. But the voice is there, reminding me of my humanity. I think, it will be one thing I will miss. This recorded human voice reaching out in the sky to human beings is a wonderful and fraught thing.