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Mariam de Haan

(04 October 1993 / Pemba, Tanzania)

Hagia Sophia's Embrace


How much have these pillars seen?
As you brush your fingers on the mermer.
Can you hear them mutter?
The sermons of the Byzantine empire,
The duas the Ottoman said during their prayer.

Large wheels written in Arabic
The name of Allah and Muhammad.
And they tried to take them outside
But the door wasn't the right size.
Inside Sofia they were created
And in her arms they shall reside.

Now notice the roof.
Imagine those people who slaved
Wiping their brows of sweat.
How each tile was placed.
To create a detailed mosaic,
Of prophet Jesus' face.

And there the muezzin was called
'Allahu akbar, allahu akbar.'
Resonating through Sophia's halls
The pitch raises and falls.
Slowly they turn to face the qiblah
Above whicVirgin Mary lies on the wall.

Where the mosaic has fallen
There lies paint in pattern.
But even that is crumbling
And the tiles are cracking.
How many here have trodden?
They bowed to God in joy and in weeping
Both Muslim and Christian.

Each has their resting place
So they can feel Sophia's embrace.
There lies a man from Byzantium.
And there close to him
Lies an Ottoman.

So of course my eyes are teary.
This walls ooze history.
They're telling us a story.
One of incredible beauty,
But also of unexpected harmony.

Submitted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Edited: Monday, December 30, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Hagia sophia, in Istanbul, was built as a church during the Byzantine empire. When the Ottomans conquered the city they transformed haga sophia into a mosque. They decided to keep the previous Christian art and add some Islamic art. Today haga sophia is a museum where both forms of art mingle to create a breathtaking scene.
This poem is an attempt to describe the beauty and my experience of the place.

Terms to clarify:
Dua: a prayer
Muezzin: the Islamic call to prayer
Qiblah: the direction which Muslims face to pray

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