Memories in a City [1]

One of the few mass email lists I have not unsubscribed from is from Lonely Planet, the travel company. I started getting an email newsletter when I used several of their guides to travel around Greece and Istanbul. I now keep the newsletter because there are occasionally interesting articles about places I wish to someday see. In short, there is enough of a return for me to bother with deleting the ones I don’t care about or don’t have time for.

This past week the headline story was Five reasons to wake at dawn as a traveller. Each of the five reasons featured a different location and explained why going there first thing in the morning is so much better than going there at any other time of day. I agree with the reasoning in the article and my favorite thing to do (if possible) is to be awake and doing the “tourist” things early in the morning so that the afternoons and evenings can largely be spent just enjoying the place, whether that is people watching, dining in a cafe, or learning how to play backgammon from a local person with whom you hardly share a language. [2]

The fifth item on the list is the reason for this entry. Lonely Planet suggests being awake for the early morning call to prayer at Fes, Morocco, preferably from a rooftop in the city. I have never been to Fes, or anywhere else in Morocco, but I was awake for the early morning call to prayer in Istanbul the first morning I was there. Quite by accident, too. I had actually meant to sleep in the airport and catch a train into town early in the morning, but I ended up going into the city with a family I met in Amsterdam and walking around the city at around one in the morning before sleeping just outside the Blue Mosque. So I was awake for the call to prayer blaring from speakers on the minaret directly overhead. I was already awake and writing at the time, seated on the same spot where I slept. Lonely Planet was right, it was a cool experience. [3] And already being awake means that you can beat the travel crowds. That trip was this time three years ago.

[1] The title is, of course, an homage to Orhan Pamuk’s memoir Istanbul.
[2] In this case the guy was the night man at the hostel. He got frustrated when I beat him with his help in the first game and mad when I beat him mostly without his help in the second. He was really nice and I liked him a lot.
[3] I also thought it was neat to sleep outside in a foreign country in 2010. Modern comforts are nice, but there is something exciting about getting to experience something like the time of P.L. Fermor while traveling. Next time I want to bring a tent and do more camping.

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