In the husk of a day – a melting twilight – I twist on my sun lounge by the open-air pool to catch a noise far behind me. Dubai steams. Migrant workers still toil by Deira Creek. Neon shop signs burn their hues into the evening palette of light. The hypodermic Burj Kahlifa – the world’s tallest building – pushes toward invisible stars.
As I think I am accustomed to the pervasive smell of diesel, fragments of the noise filter, again, through the traffic hubbub below. The call to prayer is faint and fractured. Expecting it does not prepare me for the intensity of feeling it elicits: a brief intoxication as I contort on the sun lounge and cock my head to catch each sound wave.
The call curls into my head and lodges in my chest. It feels ancient. It makes me want to listen. In its wake is a longing of some sort. Art, architecture, ruins and wrecks have never made me feel so…connected to place. Have these tangible facets of culture failed to resonate as strongly because we are hardwired to respond to sound/music in different ways?
My swoon is decidedly not about religion. Somehow, for a few moments, the entreaty to pray envelopes my sense of what it is to be human. Our frailties, dreams and deaths are common but disparate. Our past roots and future anxieties can fray our present. But on the evening air is a reminder of now: Come. Be still for a while.