The Middle East was a truly wonderful experience and so much of my blog is about the wonderful places I have visited. Now I would like to take the time to write about my experience with Islam. A religion that I had rarely been exposed to or understood but was ever present throughout my entire journey.
Ramadan & The Call To Prayer
My introduction to Islam began with me arriving in the Middle East in the last three days of Ramadan. On my morning flight from Amman to Cairo I watched as the flight attendant’s offers of breakfast were continuously declined as they moved down the aisle. I had read a little about Ramadan before my trip, mainly about fasting and considerations foreigners should show for people who are observing it.
On my second day in Egypt I travelled to Alexandria, my guide for the day was a lovely man named Mohamed who was fasting for Ramadan. I felt a little self conscious of eating or drinking in front of him, so much so that I barely ate my lunch. He was very considerate and didn’t have to sit at the table with me to keep me company while the waiter brought out multiple dishes of food, yet he did. From sunrise to sunset for an entire month he and millions of others in the Muslim world would sustain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations, life’s simple pleasures that some of us struggle to go without for even a day.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and is observed annually on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar in conjunction with the sightings of the crescent moon. It is a time of spiritual reflection and growth by going without worldly comforts to gain an understanding and empathy for those who are less fortunate. This kind of spiritual reflection and empathy for others was something I didn’t expect to be associated with Islam, it was the first of many lessons.
Eid marks the end of Ramadan with celebration and family holidays which were in full swing at the hotel I was staying at. It was quite lovely to see so many families enjoying themselves, laughing together and playing with their children in the pool. Also quite refreshing was to see so many people celebrating and having a great time without the need for alcohol as a stimulant. It was a lively party with everyone high on life and so much love and gratitude for one another.
The call to prayer would become a daily reminder of where I was and the presence of Islam. It would call out from the many Mosques in the cities and towns in unison, strong and clear. Even as I sailed down the Nile on my cruise boat it would drift across the lush green fertile Nile valley from the Mosques that dotted the shore line. My favorite time was at sunset, with the sky on fire and the call to prayer echoing out across the valley as the red sun slowly disappeared on the horizon.
I was intrigued and as time went by I was to learn more about Islam and the people who embrace and live by it. An unexpected spiritual journey to compliment the amazing places that I would see on my travels through out the Middle East.
I welcome you to comment below and tell me about your experiences with religion when traveling through different countries, I would love to hear your story too. Were you curious to learn more and how did it influence your travel experience ?
To be continued……