The muezzin’s call rises above the tenements in the deepening dusk. The crowds of faithful hurry to wash, pray and then, finally, to break their fast. The days have been long and warm this Ramadan, but work must continue as usual in this city where a day’s rest from the hustle can mean no food at all.
Nope, this is not a nostalgic Beirut or Damascus flashback. I’m talking about my new place near 117th and Adam Clayton Powell in the heart of Harlem. Around the corner is what must be one of the most vibrant Senegalese neighborhoods in the United States. It’s so dominated by Senegalese culture that Bambara and French are the languages that murmur from the stoops in the night, and men and women often wear their African clothes to hang out in.
My grandfather grew up around here, and used to camp out in Morningside Park with his copy of Peter Pan. I try to imagine that, and think it’s strange and wonderful that the neighborhood has changed so much since then, and I want to find out how it all went down.
Until then, I’ll enjoy the call to prayer. And the immense, $12 plates of lamb and couscous on 116th Street.