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My Turkish Experience

My Scholarship entry - A local encounter that changed my life

WORLDWIDE | Wednesday, 11 April 2012 | Views [158] | Scholarship Entry

Downtown Marmaris, in southern Turkey, is full of tourist oriented shops, most of them selling typical products of suspicious quality. I was walking around, looking for a narguile, when loud speakers were heard with the muezzin call for prayer. A few men started moving towards a small mosque right in the center of the commercial area. I did the same.
There, they sat on small stone stools and started to wash their hands, feet and face. When in Rome...I did the same.
They left their shoes at the entrance of the mosque and walked inside. I did the same. Or almost the same. Not knowing if I could walk in or not I just removed my shoes and started sneaking through the windows. My heart almost exploded, as a stranger came from behind asking me what I was doing.
Are you crazy? WTF are you thinking? I asked myself. No one in his perfect senses would behave in such a suspicious way, in an Arabic country, and specially in a mosque, surrounded by Muslims (whom are not regarded as being very tolerant people). After a few speechless moments I mumbled:
- I'm just curious, trying to watch the men praying.
- Are you a Muslim? He asked.
- No (I guess that was rather obvious).
He then slowly and carefully inspected me, from head to toe. I felt a few sweat drops rolling down my face. Because of the temperature, as it was 45 °C (113 °F), or because my heart was pumping some extra gallons of blood? Probably both.
- Have you washed? He then asked.
Good, I thought, he took the sweat drops on my face for water.
- Yes, I answered.
- Would you like to get inside?
- Yes, I'd really appreciate that.
- Follow me. You are going to stand on the back of the room. DON'T MOVE, DON'T SAY A WORD and DON'T TAKE PICTURES.
Guess I don't need to add anything else. This simple gesture of allowing me to testify what for them is a sacred ceremony opened my eyes to the whole concept of prejudice. May Allah and the Prophet Mohamed bless these unknown Muslim brothers for their kindness and understanding.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2012

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