Personal Essay / Harvard Divinity Bulletin - Spring 2010

Inside Outside

I hunt down prayer rooms in airports. It began a few years ago, at Kennedy International Airport in New York. After seeing a friend off and feeling at loose ends, I tracked down the airport’s prayer spaces—a synagogue, a church, a mosque, and an interfaith space, wall-to-wall next to each other in Terminal Four. I sat down in the mosque; it was empty. I had not prayed in years. I looked at the calligraphy on the walls, the stack of Qur’ans next to the window, and the wooden screen behind which women were supposed to pray—strangely familiar from the mosques of my childhood, but so faraway in time and place. Perhaps I had forgotten how to pray. What would I say, and in what language? Then I thought of my friend flying off to start a new life in a city she barely knew, and prayer arrived on my tongue.

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