Saturday, July 26
Segou, Mali

So much of life here revolves around prayer.

Most people who live in both the countries I’ve visited so far, Senegal and Mali, practice Islam, which calls for prayer five times each day. Imagine if you had to stop what you were doing five times every day to pray?

Everywhere I look, I see people, mostly men, praying on prayer mats or preparing to pray by washing their hands and feet. Yesterday, the bus I took to Segou from Bamako stopped about two hours into the three-hour ride for the sole reason of giving passengers a few minutes to pray.

The cool thing about prayer time is not the sight, but the sound. Mosques conduct the call to prayer over loud speakers, so everyone in town can hear it. In some towns, the mosque also sends out a five-minute warning to give worshipers a chance to prepare. The call occurs so frequently it seems (well, to me, anyhow) like it’s always prayer time.

Several of the places I’ve stayed have been close to a mosque, which means I was awaken by the 5 a.m. call to prayer, nice and loud. To give you an idea of what it sounds like, I took this video of a mosque on Goree Island, near Dakar (you may need to give it time to load):