Friday, May 6

South America, Day Fourteen: Plans, Failures and Successes

This day was the hardest I had had on the trip so far.

Despite getting up at 7am I was still unable to leave the hotel before 9. Still I had taken the time to meticulously plan the day: I was going to leave my luggage at the hotel, do the local sites of Lapa and Santa Teresa and then catch Jummah at the only mosque in Rio. Of course it's the best laid plans that are doomed to fail, and so many things went wrong that morning I actually almost panicked. Almost.

Failure number one was assuming the hotel would hold on to my luggage for the morning. This is something I obviously took for granted since this one in particular refused to, even though I technically had my room till 12pm. Accepting that it wasn't going to happen, I decided to take my luggage to the mosque down the road to see if they could look after it instead. After all, that's why I had booked this particular hotel.

Except the mosque I was after didn't exist any more. It had been there, and indeed the website still lists the same address for it, but now it was five stations west on the metro, a good thirty minutes away. The issue was of course that all my planned morning's sightseeing was supposed to have been before I left the locality. Assessing the situation, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it all lugging a suitcase around and so after confirming that so called "Central Station" (now the bane of my life) didn't have luggage lockers I decided to give up and head to the mosque for the morning instead.

The journey to the mosque felt more desperate than lonely. Still, Rio is quite easy to navigate around and I found the mosque quite easily - or rather I found what looked to be a half built mosque.

For those who don't know, participating in Jummah is quite important to me, and that for a bunch of reasons including habit, culture and being able to establish links with local Muslims. The upshot of this is that I've yet to miss a Jummah for around two decades (apart from two consecutive weeks where, ironically, I was on Hajj), and this despite being lucky enough to travel to some quite inaccessible places (even though I'm of the opinion that missing it isn't that big a deal particularly while travelling). In short, my heart sank as I came to terms with the fact that I would miss it today.

Before turning to head to my new hotel I decided on a closer inspection. It turned out that God was literally on my side that day; the place was open and preparations for Jummah were well under way. Since I had two hours to kill, they kindly allowed me to leave my luggage there while I headed back to Lapa to try and salvage the morning.

In those two hours I managed to cover the Catedral Metropolitana, the aqueduct, the Lapa Steps (which I will admit to not having heard of before coming to Rio) and even got to ride on the Santa Teresa trolley.

An interesting thing I've noticed so far in South America is how pleasant the tip-cum-begging culture is. Essentially, at no point in time are you ever made to feel that you have to give anything, and this lack of compulsion (obviously) leads to more people giving with joy. It's actually quite refreshing to see and makes a nice change from the hassle and attitude in other parts of the world (including the UK).

Despite fulfilling all my objectives that morning I still managed to get back to the mosque for Jummah with plenty of time to spare. Returning as a veteran rather than a desperate stranger, I was in much higher spirits and enjoyed the congregation much more than I would have otherwise. Talking to some of the participants afterwards I found out some pretty incredible things about the Muslim population in Rio, including how around 50% were converts and that there was absolutely no halal food in the city. How much of that was true I'm not sure, but what I did see for myself was how many non-Muslims were at the mosque for the Portuguese khutba or sermon. Otherwise it was the same story; there was around fifty people for Jummah that day, although that apparently was not indicative of the population of Rio itself.

After moving into my new place, I headed to that other staple tourist attraction, Sugar Loaf Mountain. The day was much clearer than the last, but overall the attraction wasn't as interesting and amazing as the time I had that morning; particularly seeing as how I had visited the Covacado the day before anyway.

I ended a day with a couple of hours at the Leblon Shopping Mall. And when I say "shopping" I mean "shopping". I have to admit that I still thought Buenos Aires was top when it came to "atmosphere".

1 comment:

  1. we had an address for a mosque in Merida and found it too but there was nobody there. hung around for around 30mins and then left and came back again half hour later and still it was deserted.