A call to prayer
A few nights ago I had one of the most unforgetable experiences of my life. I was invited by my host, Loay Nazer, to the downtown center of Jeddah to observe the daily “call to prayer”. The call to prayer happens numerous times throughout the day and is broadcast over loud speakers from all the Mosque’s.
The downtown center of Jeddah contains a great deal of history including the house of the first King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prior to 1932 Saudi was not a united country but a group of tribes. It went kind of like this (courtesy of Wikipedia so no I am not that smart)
The Third Saudi state was founded by the late King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. In 1902 Ibn Saud captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty’s ancestral capital, from the rival Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, the rest of Nejd, and the Hejaz between 1913 and 1926.
Boundaries with Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait were established by a series of treaties negotiated in the 1920s, with two “neutral zones” created, one with Iraq and the other with Kuwait. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud became the King of Hejaz. On January 29, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jeddah, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz’s realm (then known as the Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd). In 1932, these regions were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The discovery of oil on March 3, 1938 transformed the country. The country’s southern boundary with Yemen was partially defined by the 1934 Treaty of Taif, which ended a brief border war between the two states.
So anyway, we went to the house of the first official King of the Kingdom. It’s a large 5 story dwelling smack in the middle of modern Jeddah. It is made largely of coral which I found interesting. The coolest part were the hallways and heights of the ceilings. The hallways and stairwells are very wide and very high and were built to allow camels to carry water and supplies up to the top levels.
At the very top level is an open air prayer room that looks over Jeddah and is surrounded by 36 Mosque’s….all within one kilometer of each other. We were joined by the Vice Chancellor of UCLA and two of his colleagues who were visiting Universities in Saudi Arabia. Life is hilarious sometimes.
As the sun sets the call to prayer starts and it was without question one of the most surreal,haunting, moving experiences of my life. Partly because of the surroundings, partly because of the company but mostly because of the incredible simultaneous broadcast over loudspeakers from 36 Mosque’s as the sun sets.
Following the call to prayer we had tea and traditional bread with honey. It was so cool I went down to the beach the following night to listen to the call to prayer again while the sun was setting.
The video is footage of where we were and interview with a British Journalist that does it more justice. This same guy was our guide. He is a Civil Engineer educated at University in California who is now a tour guide and historian.