One Night in Istanbul

After only a few steps out the door, I reached for the strap of Casey’s messenger bag to avoid losing my companion in the swarm of colorful headscarves, families on picnic blankets, shouting vendors, sizzling kebabs, and roasted chestnuts.  Between the giant Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, thousands of Muslim fasters had already assembled.  Our rushed dinner purchase was an ear of boiled corn, which we passed back and forth while we searched for an available plot of grass to sit on.  We were still on the lookout when it happened: the Arabic drone rang out from the mosque’s minaret speakers, hushing the masses.

I had never witnessed the turning of clamor to calmness or hunger to satisfaction in a single dramatic moment–and on such a massive scale–until the chant rang out and families reached for their bread baskets.  The people of Istanbul had broken the Ramadan fast.  This moment of ritual stunned us, two American Christians spending September 11th in a country where 98% of its citizens identify as Muslim, a country that borders Iraq, Iran, and Georgia.  It was as if Sacredness knocked the wind out of us, halting us right where we were.  
On our first night in Turkey, after the fasting crowds had filled their bellies and turned to Ramadan’s late-games and gatherings, I learned something about being Catholic.  
To read on, click here.
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