Mosque Meditations

Written by current student Hope Zigterman (Gordon College, Massachusetts)

It was a giant eight-sided room with wall-to-wall carpeting. The room was lit with a giant circular chandelier and there were stained-glass windows all along the upper part of the wall. The “decorations” included no pictures or paintings, but only geometric designs and Arabic writing. It was a very beautiful and peaceful room.

Before the call to prayer, a few men trickled in and began their individual prayers. One man in a wheel chair came in and he was helped into a chair. A few others grabbed chairs as well – a demonstration of the principle of ease. Following the call to prayer, more men slowly began to enter. They remained pretty spread out, with only about twenty men in the room. However, once the group prayer began, being led by someone calling out a few words softly (all I heard/understood was “Allah”), all of the men gathered towards the front in two long rows. As more men entered, a third row was started. Altogether, there were probably about 250 men. Between 100 and 200 men were there when the group prayer began and the rest filed in as it continued. Afterwards, most of the men dispersed, but a decent amount stayed to complete individual prayers, again, spreading out throughout the room.

What struck me about the service/praying, was that all of the men came as they were. Some came in jeans, some in the traditional long garments, some had hats, some had their construction clothes on, and some wore business suits. The only uniformity was that everyone takes off their shoes before entering. The idea of people coming as they were reminded me of haj (pilgrimage to Mecca), when everyone wears a white robe so that they are all equal. I think it is also significant that on normal days they do not all wear the same thing, but come from wherever there walk of life has situated them. As they all prayed together, they are equal before God. I was impressed by the fact that it was not just older men. A lot of shebab (“young men”) were also praying. Islam is not just a religion for one type of people, but it is for all people, regardless of their race, age, or employment. I was also struck by the sense of peace available in the room. Maybe it was because the carpet made it cozy. However, as I watched the men praying, I thought to myself, that Islam is truly a religion of peace. The men in that room were taking time out of their day and their schedules to come and pray. This takes effort and commitment and suggests a deep belief in God.


Middle Eastern ‘Soccer’ Program?

Written by current student Caleb Sorenson (Kings University, Edmonton, AB, Canada)


I really loved sports as a kid. I was always playing soccer, basketball, and street hockey with my friends. Junior High and High School were both filled with various different teams and sporting events. As I grew older, I realized that sports were not everything in life (it was quite the revelation at the time) and since then I have become more passionate in studying humanities. Hence, coming to the Middle East to study.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that my love for sports could be an entrance to interact with so many local people. Throughout my whole semester, I have been able to connect with a lot of people based on the common ground of sports.

In Jordan, I was invited by teachers at my Arabic school to play soccer in a park it was a great way to meet local people. Another fun soccer game happened in the parking lot outside our program apartment building during a family party that was put on by our landlord.

Every Tuesday, MESP students are a part of service projects. My service project was at a school in a neighboring city to Amman called Zarqa. My time at the school consisted mainly of having one on one time with students who needed help in English. A common conversation I would initiate would be about who their favorite soccer player or team was. This got the students excited because they were talking about something they were passionate about.

Another part of MESP is participating in homestays. The family I stayed with had children who absolutely loved soccer. We would play every night on their drive way. Sometimes they would even invite relatives and neighbors to join in the fun. These nightly soccer games were a great way to bond as my Arabic, and their English, was limited, but we still found a way to connect.

Another part of the semester included travelling to Morocco. This trip was incredibly fun, and a notable experience for me was just chatting to shopkeepers, while drinking very sweet mint tea, about soccer. Also in Morocco on our last evening in Casablanca, I went to the beach and joined local Shabab (Arabic for young men) in playing soccer on the beach. There were multiple games going on, and easily hundreds of people playing on the beach. It was by far the most scenic field I ever played on as the sun set in the evening. This game was particularly fun as my communication with the other people playing consisted of English, Moroccan Arabic, French, and Spanish. It was a great way to practice all of those languages and to meet local Moroccans.

I never knew that when my parents first signed me up for soccer as kid that it was going to be so helpful during my time in the Middle East.