Jakarta sunrise

I awoke bright and early and raced to open my curtains to take in the sunrise—a broadening orange smear of sunshine diffusing through the smog behind silhouettes of gigantic skyscrapers, many under construction. Even through the sealed hotel windows, I can hear the honking of buses and taxis taking commuters to work at Unholy O’clock to beat the horrors of the main rush hour.

Apart from the preponderance of mosques over temples and more ladies in hijab (not universal; I reckon about 50%), I was once again by how much Jakarta reminds me of Bangkok (and I lived in a muslim area of Bangkok so the differences are even smaller).

Reading the newspaper over breakfast (papaya, miso soup, nasi goreng and omlette) reinforced the similarities. Just like in the Bangkok Post, the Jakarta Globe runs stories on alleged police inactivity, corrupt politicians, urban flooding, a pretty girl in a sex scandal and school bullying going tragically wrong.

There were a few peculiarly Indonesian stories: pilgrims to Mecca complaining over the government Hajj organisation’s lack of transparency, bad food and not issuing prayer books early enough.

Some local students have invented some sunglasses with “sonar” that alerts blind wearers if they’re going to walk into an obstacle, and elected not to patent them “so that every blind person will be able to take advantage of them”.

There is a debate in the letters page about whether mosques should all re-broadcast a centrally-chosen muezzin’s call to prayer or whether each muezzin should continue to do his own call but do it without amplification. The point is that it can become pretty noisy when lots of mosques all do their own calls through loudspeakers.

I can speak only for myself, but one of the joys of my time living in Turkey was the cacophony of different men, all singing the same ancient words “Allah-u Akbar Ash-hadu allā ilāha illallāh” in their different voices simultaneously at prayer time.

Now to finish writing my presentation and to celebrate my birthday a day late by reading beside the pool until I feel energetic enough for a massage.

5 Responses to “ Jakarta sunrise ”

Comment by Sam

In regards to the call to prayer, I’m currently residing in Amman, Jordan where they have such a centralised call to prayer which is transmitted (somehow) to all the different mosques. Although I understand the practicality of it, I think I much prefer the traditional system of each mosque performing their own call.

Comment by Bruce

I agree with you.

And, on a practical note, if you’re not a muslim so not getting up for prayers, any call will disturb your sleep until you get used to it. I used to sleep through the competing calls of 5 mosques, only hearing them when I was so late back it was still the night before rather than morning. It’s a beautiful sound, I think.

Comment by Divya

I mostly heard the call to prayer at dusk (in Chennai 10 yrs ago), and now every time I hear it, it brings back memories of youth, and I feel a bit sad :(