Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pilgrimage in fluffy pink carpet slippers


We arrived in Aswan two days before President Morsi was deposed and Egypt started its descent into violence. Because of the deteriorating political situation we were advised not to go ashore from the boat that had brought us from Luxor. But my wife and I were not going to let a mere revolution stop us visiting the el-Tabia Mosque which we had glimpsed from the river as we arrived in the city. As the sun set a decrepit taxi took us along the corniche to the el-Tabia or Grand Mosque in the northern outskirts of Aswan. The tallest building in the city, the mosque was built in neo-Mamluk style with Saudi money and completed in 2010. Despite arriving unannounced we were welcomed at the door and taken on a tour. Our shoes were left outside and we were shown the main prayer hall before being taken up one of the barely finished minarets. As our shoes were still outside we were provided with temporary footwear for the steep ascent, mine were fluffy pink carpet slippers. The Maghrib call to prayer at sunset in Muslim countries is an unforgettable experience. But I never expected to be at the centre of the experience with the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from the loudspeakers in front of me and the surrounding mosques echoing the call. There was no music other than the voice of the muezzin, but, despite the fluffy pink carpet slippers, I felt myself momentarily "crossing over". How true is this teaching of Venerable Amaro:
Just as the nature of water is not affected by the shape of the vessel into which it is poured, so too the nature of Ultimate Truth - the nationality and conditioning of the person in whom it is realised does not affect the way it actually is.

Quote is from Seeing the Way: Buddhist Reflections on the Spiritual Life, a valuable anthology of teachings by English-speaking disciples of Ajahn Chah which can be read online. All photos are (c) On An Overgrown Path 2013. Any other copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment:

Pliable said...

In photo 3 the dot on the top of the hill on the other side of the Nile is the mausoleum for Aga Khan III, a leader of the Ismaili sect of Shiite Islam. He spent winters in Aswan, a city he adored, and the mausoleum was built by his wife after his death in 1957.