I WAS lying down on my navy blue sofa on Saturday night at 12:30 a.m. watching TV when I heard a strange noise coming from outside: It sounded like they were praying at one of my local mosques. But why now? It wasn't a prayer time and it wasn't Ramadan when they pray at night, reciting the whole Qur'an over the span of the fasting month. So what was it?
"Marvin can you hear that? It sounds like they're praying," I said to my friend.
He went to the balcony and returned excited: "It's the eclipse of the moon!"
I had forgotten that it was happening that night even though a reader had called us up at the office to ask about the impending lunar eclipse. Not only that, but I had even asked my colleague to take a story about it on the back page.
I went to the balcony and sure enough I saw the most amazing sight. What was supposed to be a full moon was a mere 1/3-sized disc of its normal size and getting smaller by the minute. The earth's shadow was falling across the moon and obscuring it from our view. We in the Middle East along with people in Europe had the best views of this fascinating phenomenon.
Even my dog Nog-Nog got excited and insisted I hold him while we looked at the disappearing moon. After several excited calls to friends whom I knew were still awake ("You have to look at the lunar eclipse! It's beautiful!) I kept watching the moon until around 2 a.m. By then it had pratically disappeared completely and looked like a hazy object in the night sky that had a weird, red glow to it.
Meanwhile, the urgent prayers and suplications continued throughout all of this, with only mini-breaks of a few minutes each possibly to allow the muezin a break to drink water and possibly use the CR.
"They're praying because they think the eclipse makes their prayers more powerful," said my friend Sara on the phone. "They also pray when it rains." Since it hardly ever, ever rains here, I don't recall hearing them actually praying during a downpour.
"In India the Hindus pray like mad too during eclipses," said an Indian colleague who was watching it from his rooftop apartment. "They think the eclipse throws a spell on them, and they then have to wash it off in the Ganges River."
Finally at 2:30 a.m. I went to bed, too tired to stay awake until 3:45 a.m. when the eclipse was supposed to be over. In any case, I had to take Nog-Nog to the vet on Sunday to get his teeth cleaned. But that's a whole other story.