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Sahara

Day 6: Fez

Michael Palin - SaharaTo an ear disoriented by deep sleep it sounds like bagpipes warming up or a very ancient siren being cranked into life. Then, after a moment of struggling wakefulness, it coalesces into a rough approximation of a voice, albeit weirdly stretched and distorted. Just as it seems to grow clear and explicable another voice chimes in, at a different pitch and much further away, then another, close by, hard, hooting and metallic, then another and another, until waves of overlapping, over-amplified exhortation burst from the darkened city. If I knew Arabic I would know they were saying, 'God is Great. There is No God But God. Prayer is Better than Sleep.'

I check my watch. It's 4 am.

Soobh Fegr, the dawn summons, is one of five calls to prayer that mark the Muslim day. I have heard it many times, but never anything as spectacular or prolific as the prayer calls of Fez, a rolling wall of sound rising from over fifty mosques, cradled in a bowl of hills.

Infidel that I am, I fall to sleep rather than prayer, and by the time I wake sunlight is thumping against the window and the only sound is the trilling of birds.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 6
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Fez
  • Book page no: 31

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