The apartment I’m renting at the moment is only a matter of meters from the Great Mosque of Tirana. Every day, when I leave the apartment and walk to the end of the street I can see the mosque just across the road. It’s very beautiful.
There are lots of mosques in Albania and several in Tirana so I’ve seen plenty, but the Great Mosque of Tirana is easily the most impressive mosque I’ve seen since I’ve been living here.
It’s apparently the largest mosque in the Balkans and it is still pretty new. Less than 5-years-old, in fact. Construction began in 2015. It’s grown pretty fast and is big enough to hold around 5,000 worshipers.
Even when I can’t see the mosque I’m constantly reminded that it’s there. When I am sitting working at my computer I hear the call to prayer (adhan) several times a day.
Hearing the call to prayer is an interesting experience for me. If I’d been born in Albania the call prayer is a sound I’d have become accustomed to because all mosques do it. I grew up in the Yorkshire Dales. There were no mosques anywhere near my home. I used to hear birds singing, dog’s barking, and the sound of traffic. During the summer I could also hear the sound of the neighbour’s radio when they were listing to it in their garden. One Sundays, I could hear the bells of St. Gregory’s Church, but that was a very different sounding call to prayer.
Travel allows you to experience new things. It gives you the opportunity to get a better understanding of different cultures and opens your mind. It’s not just about going to different places and “seeing the sights”.
If you arrive in a country as a tourist and only stay a short time it’s like putting your toe in the water. When you stay a little longer and try and live like a local it’s more like taking a little swim in the sea. You become accustomed to different neighbourhoods and it’s not just about the things that you can see. You hear different sounds around you, smell different things, and get an idea of how people live their everyday lives. Personally, I’d rather be a traveller than a tourist any day of the week.
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