Somewhere in this part of town, there’s a mosque, the minaret of which echoes 5 times a day. I just heard the 1 PM call to prayer. I am told that it is situated in the hills north of me – north of the coast, but its echo always has me looking toward the coast. And so I’ve decided to find out the exact locale of this house of worship.
I mention the mosque as a NYC resident who never gets to hear anything of the kind, not even church bells (the City noise must be drowning those). And as such, the experience of listening to a call of prayer is singularly touching to me, as is the fact that none of the locals pay any mind to it.
On my very first visit to Albania, eons ago, I got shivers down my spine when I heard the call only a few steps away from Durres’ main and largest mosque. Of course I did the respectful thing and stopped all activity, awkwardly doing my best to locate the southeast, to face Mecca. I looked around, and the locals were walking, talking, selling, drinking, laughing and going about their usual business. It was so jarring to hear such a spiritual sound and to look around and see no traces of awe in anyone’s faces – except mine.
Speaking of mosques and Islam: It’s the last days of the month of Ramazan/Ramadan, and many Muslims are eagerly preparing for the big feast of Bajram (Eid), as they call it here, though they may not have fasted, save for one special night (night of Kadri) when it is supposed that the angels descend down to earth and hear everyone’s prayer and innermost wishes. So, yes, in a few days, I should be witness, for the first time ever, to Eid celebrations in Albania.
I should mention that Albanians belong to three major religions: A Turkish version of Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism, with the majority being Muslim. Just as the Muslim population is lax and tolerant, so are the rest of Albanians, frequently celebrating together, and interfaith marriages are not uncommon.