On religion

Perhaps one of the more unusual cultural experiences I’ve had in Antalya is attending Friday noon prayers at a mosque.  I went to three different mosques on three different Fridays with three different groups of people.  I’ve been invited again but decided it’s not for me.  It was interesting to participate in something that I’ve seen photos of, that I’ve observed from the outside, that I’ve seen on TV, that is an important five-times-a-day ritual for millions of people in the world.

DSCN9443 by bryandkeith on flickr

Before prayer (namaz) it is important to follow a particular bathing ritual.  I had it written down somewhere, but I can’t find my notes, and apparently I didn’t do it enough to remember.  I think you start with your nose or maybe your mouth and keep going all the way down to your legs and feet.  The washing can be done at the fountains at the mosque but can be done elsewhere as well.  After washing you’re not supposed to touch your penis or a woman, and I suppose some combination thereof is particularly taboo.

And therein lies the rub, so to speak.  Namaz is for men.  I saw no women at the mosques.  Some women pray at home.  Most woman I’ve spoken with, in my terribly biased sampling, have nothing to do with Islam.  After namaz with Murat we each went own ways as he was in a hurry to get to work.  On another occasion I joined a group for tea afterwards.  How quickly, in this male-only group, talk turned to trashy sex talk.  I left.

DSCN9317 by bryandkeith on flickr

Following another Friday prayer I joined a group for a yummy lunch prepared by one of the guys that didn’t bother going to the mosque.  And that is one thing I like: of the people at lunch that day half had been to pray, half hadn’t, and it didn’t seem to matter.  However, there was one woman around during that lunch.  She ate in the kitchen instead of at the table with the rest of us.  When she asked for more food (since it was on the table, not in the kitchen), one of the guys made sure everyone had enough and then gave her more.  Aaack, I hated seeing this, and it was for me probably the most uncomfortable situation I’ve been in in Antalya.

While on the mosque subject, I should at least say a little about ezan, the call to prayer that I hear five-times-a-day.  I’m listening to it right now as a matter of fact, and, haha!, it’s the Friday noon prayer!  When I arrived in Turkey in February, the days were shorter of course, and the first ezan was at about 6am.  It’s two hours earlier now and gets a little earlier every day (until the solstice).  How do they do this north of the arctic circle??!!  Anyway, I’ve read about people getting used to it and sleeping through the early one, but after almost four months I’ve rarely managed that.

DSCN9441 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9527 by bryandkeith on flickr

I suppose the thing people in Boulder do most religiously is their exercise regime, particularly climbing.  Even though there’s some good climbing near the city, most people in Antalya would find the crags and the climbing scene there as exotic as the Islam experience was for me.  I was invited to go climbing one day after class by Louise, a fellow Turkish-language student.  We bicycled much of the ways to the crags to a friend’s house and from there continued (up) in a car.

Yogo and Louise by bryandkeith on flickr

My first pitch in many months by bryandkeith on flickr

It was my first time on the rock since leaving Colorado.  We only did two short sport routes, but it was really fun to get out.  Everyone was from France, even the folks who were leaving the crag when we arrived (!), so I got a chance to practice my French.

Speaking of French and rocks, the French woman, Collette, whose house I’m staying in returns from France in a day or two so I’ll be scrambling around looking for another place.  I’m actually hoping to leave Antalya soon, but sadly I still don’t have a bike.

Here’s what it looks like just outside Collette’s front door:

DSCN9442 by bryandkeith on flickr

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10 Responses to On religion

  1. Lisa says:

    Love your blog. Thanks for writing and thanks for all the great photos. Living vicariously here from Boulder, CO.

  2. Hey Brian, Wendy connected me to your posts and I’m cycling (or not!) vicariously around with ya – remember me from climbing that last pass back to Gunnison on the BTC? I lived and worked in Islam (Afghanistan) for 3 years, never got used to that first call to prayer, and was continuously astounded by the hypocrisy of Islam related to women and sex. So many (even educated) Muslim men truly believe that women have a strict place in their culture, relegated to mostly childbearing, and are not considered equal partners intellectually, fiscally, or legally. Interesting that Mohammed’s first wife was a successful businesswoman – and while their scripture holds women in highest esteem, and they use those passages to justify the most ridiculous strictures, in practice is appears to be misogamy to those of us who work and play with the opposite sex. Good luck getting your new ride and we all look forward to your next installment! jackie

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Great to hear from you. Wow, three years in Afghanistan, and you were “continually astounded”. I sure hope that Turkey is better for women than Afghanistan, but maybe not. In a 2011 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report that my sister pointed out to me, Turkey ranked 122 of the 135 countries in the study. Yikes, that’s grim.

      The longer I’m in Turkey the more bad stories I hear about Turkish men, two more stories in the last two days as a matter of fact.

      Maybe it will help to get back on the road. As Snežana commented on in this post, solo female cyclists are treated very well here. Maybe more Turkish women need to get out on their bikes. Yeah, well, that’s my solution for a lot of problems.

  3. Zane Selvans says:

    Are you still holding out on the customs duties? Or do you just not believe that the bike will come, even if you capitulate to their demands?

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Ha! I haven’t been holding out on the customs duties! They kept saying there was no way to release the bike because I’ve been in Turkey too long. Money wasn’t the issue. Finally they’ve come up with a price. I’ll believe it when I have the bike.

  4. Snežanas says:

    in some mosques there is a special room for women. I first saw it in Sivas. Unfortunately, I delete the photograph of a woman praying in a mosque in the women’s room.

    • Bryan Keith says:

      There’s an outdoor photograph exhibit in Antalya right now with photos from Turkey. One of my favorite photos of the exhibit shows a woman praying at the mosque in her own small area out of sight of the men. In the background you can see the men in the main room of the mosque. Sure, there’a a place in the mosque and sometimes a separate time for woman to pray, but it sure looks like 2nd class treatment to me.

  5. Snežana says:

    I agree, women room in the mosque in Sivas was like a quarter of the room where men pray. But my experience as the woman who was riding a bicycle alone, two months through Turkey, is that Turks love to help women. I never felt that they underestimate me in any way. Rather, they behaved towards me like a queen. I know that the guest is a gift from Allah and surely that is the explanation.

  6. Can says:

    Hey Bryan,

    Love your posts! I hope you find a good bike to buy soon. Well, I’m heading north towards Canakkale/Bursa from Izmir next week. I’ll do a tour for 2-3 weeks, I think. Come & join me if you don’t have any other plans.

    Good luck with your Turkish classes too 🙂


    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Can,

      I saw your post on couchsurfing as well. Have a great ride. I’m leaving Antalya soon (!) and will ride to Ankara where I’m meeting a friend next month.

      Türkçe iyi gidiyor. Yavaş yavaş ama her gün öğreniyorum. Belki yolda görüşürüz.


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