Last Monday, I left my home in Arlington, Virginia at 5PM EST to start a year of service abroad. Thankfully the trip went smoothly, and on Tuesday around 11PM I arrived to my new home – the Al Amana Centre in Muscat, Oman. Like the good daughter I am, the first thing I did upon arriving was ask for the Wi-Fi password so that I could text my mom and dad (and Elizabeth from YASC) that I was there safe and sound. I then collapsed on my bed for a long night’s rest.
Well…not too long…Around 4:30AM my eyes sprung open to the reverberating sounds of voices chanting the call to prayer (adhat) from nearby mosques. One of the Five Pillars of Islam is obligatory daily prayer (salat) which occurs five times each day at set times. While the exact hours depend on the sun and geography, ritual prayer sets the rhythm of the day for Muslims throughout the world. In Oman and other Islamic countries, the adhan is called publicly from each mosque’s minaret tower, thus setting the rhythm for everybody. Below are the start times from today (Sept 1):
- Fajr (dawn, before sunrise) was at 4:31AM
- Dhuhr (midday) was at 12:12PM
- Asr (afternoon) was at 3:40PM
- Maghrib (dusk, after sunset) was at 6:31PM
- Isha (night) was at 7:43PM
Prayer, and more specifically ritual prayer, plays an important role in all three Abrahamic religions. Judaism sets three times each day for prayer: morning, afternoon, and evening. Even Christianity has set liturgies for daily prayer. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer includes the Daily Office (Morning Prayer, Noonday, Evening Prayer, and Compline) and Daily Devotions (In the morning, At noon, In the early evening). But most Christians and Jews that I know rarely adhere to such regular practices, and they are by no means mandatory. The centrality of and commitment to ritual prayer in Islam is unique and beautiful.
Given my pre-dawn wake up calls, I have enjoyed peaceful, slow mornings spent journaling, meditating, and reading on my very own rooftop patio. The air begins thick and humid, but as the sun climbs higher (in parallel with the rising temperature) much of the moisture evaporates. Overall, the weather is undeniably hot though not as oppressive as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I love fans and air-conditioning, but the high today was 93 degrees Fahrenheit which is no worse than the summer months in Richmond or Durham.
The Centre is located in Muttrah which is about 20 minutes outside of the city center and a short walk from the waterfront and corniche. Small shops selling everything from “Food Stuffs” to “Ladies Tailoring” line the narrow, winding streets of this old city. Jagged, rocky, gray mountains surround it. Gradually I’m exploring more and more of my surroundings; there is no shortage of things to do nor beautiful places to discover.
Since arriving, the Centre has only been open one day because we had a long weekend to celebrate the Islamic New Year, so I’ve met the team but not much more. I attended the Anglican service at the church center on Friday evening (more on that in another post), and I’ve gone swimming in the ocean twice so far. Now after three days of snorkeling, reading, and studying Arabic, I am excited to join in the Al Amana Centre’s preparations for the first group arriving in less than two weeks!
This week I give thanks for such a smooth and joyful beginning, and I invite your prayers for my fellow YASCers as they get settled in their placements and/or finish preparing for departure. Pray for Talley, Megan, Emily, Marilee, and Nelson; and for Dawn, Stephanie, and James.
Photo credit for the beautiful mosque’s minaret in Muttrah goes to Aaro Rytkonen.