Across Continents

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Exploring Edirne

I’d met Berkant (pronounced ’Backant’) and Nadir the previous day. Pausing briefly in the centre of Edirne to get my bearings, they’d approached and offered to help. They were keen to practice their English, and thanking them for their assistance, we agreed to meet for coffee the following afternoon. By then I’d many questions. A Muslim country, but a secular state, what did that mean, I asked? The wearing of religious symbols, such as the Cross, was not permitted. And what of the Santa Claus hats I’d seen in the centre, surely Christmas wasn’t recognised? No, they were for the New Year celebrations.

Mosque

After coffee in the fading winter sun, we headed to the central Selimiye Mosque. Outside, a quite beautiful, imposing building, tall, elegant minarets. Inside, ornately decorated but not decadent. We watched as the Imam led early evening prayers. Tonight at least, just a few women, their hair covered with scarves, praying separately to the men. A short Service, perhaps twenty minutes, but one of five each day for the devoted. Nadir, who’d spent some time in England as an au pair, suggested the expectations of commitment were not dissimilar to that of Roman Catholicism.

Side street

Earlier in the day I’d wandered around central Edirne. A modern pedestrian shopping area, but venture a short distance and you were quickly amongst the traditional markets – the covered bazaars – or narrow side streets packed with small shops, perhaps tailors, or tiny cafes. Lively, bustling, but not crowded. I found a small street cafe for lunch. Mercimek corbasi – red lentil soup – and delicious soft flat bread, and warm cay – pronounced ’chay’ – Turkish tea. Students wandering around in their lunch break. Tidily dressed. A brief, if barely noticed, interruption for call to prayers.

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