As I relax in my second floor, freshly-decorated-for-fall sitting room with an outdated home magazine and cooled off cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn across the small room to the screened patio and balcony; perfect size for my two tired lawn chairs and small side table that have sat vacant all summer and fall.
The late morning sun is sectioning off the space. Drifting in are the unmistakable smells of garlic and unknown spices that a resourceful cook somewhere in the area is adding, I suspect, to a pot of soup for someone’s lunch.
The weather is gorgeous. It’s still warm – 85 degrees in mid November – with dirty sand and fine particles of dust clogging my nostrils, but then, this is the Middle East, and this Midwesterner from the U.S. has had three years to adapt to the climate. After all, just three weeks ago it hovered around 100 degrees – and back home it is snowing today – so I consider myself lucky. It is what it is. I won’t complain.
An occasional bird’s song breaks the outside silence punctuated by a rumbling vehicle off in the distance.
Without warning, the many mosques in the neighborhood break out into sound – one of six daily calls to prayer. The male voices collide with one another via loudspeakers mounted high on minarets as they summon faithful Muslims to Zuhr, the noon prayer. Within three to four minutes, all is silent once again.
It’s peaceful and calming. Comfy within my nondescript beige-walled compound, my mind wanders while my senses explode. My sense of smell is updating the garlic scent to suggest chicken soup with this distinct spice liberally added.
In moments such as this, I wonder about – and miss – my comfortable house back home; an old Victorian in a small rural town. It, too, welcoming the late morning aromas from the restaurant on the corner preparing for its lunchtime patrons, the many chirping birds, cars across the river slowly winding their way into town as they cross the bridge, and the daily noon whistle – once alerting the farmers in the fields of lunch time – now a time-honored tradition sounding twice a day from the fire station two streets away.
The distance between here and there may be enormous, but in many respects, the daily routines are similar. Yes, there are differences – cultural, political, religious and social – but then ‘different’ is a good thing in my book.