Everyone knows that situation: You are eating at McDonald’s or looking for the latest Jack London novel at the public library. You are running after bus no. 5B or slowly walking through the park once more to drag out that visit to the dentist.
Exactly at that moment, when you didn’t expect it and can’t really use it either, the muezzin calls. Let’s pray, everybody! Five times per day. Quite exhausting, this religious stuff.
You quickly roll out your carpet and pray. But always in the direction of Mecca, for otherwise God won’t be able to hear you. He can’t be everywhere, can he?
Now you have a problem: Where is this Mecca again? Hmm, there was desert around it, wasn’t there? So it must have been somewhere south. But where is south? Again you forgot the compass (only scouts can use the sun and the time to determine where south is). If others are praying as well, you simply copy them. But even that doesn’t guarantee that the lead-prayer didn’t get it wrong and the whole congregation unsuspectingly prays towards Vladivostok. That explains why millions of prayers remain unheard and unanswered every day.
In Iran, ever the precursor of technology (chess, mail service, space flight for animals), I discovered the solution to this problem: Attached to the ceiling in my hotel room, there was an arrow indicating the direction that would take one to Mecca.
Because the arrow was fixed on the ceiling instead of the carpet, I could even pray while relaxing in bed. Very practical!
(I took this photo during my first trip to Iran at Hotel Eram in Shiraz. Good hotel, centrally located. If you ask for the “recommended specialties” in the tea parlor around the corner, you are led through a usually locked staircase to the second floor, where a large room with comfortable couches is full with those stoned out of their minds or holding hands before marriage. A lady between 70 and 80 years of age successfully bummed a cigar from me, but her grandson returned it to me with a sermon of apologies. I insisted on the donation. Taarof. – Hier gibt es diese Geschichte auf Deutsch.)