Lospalos at night

Timor districtsTimor Leste

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The single muezzin echoes through the pitch-black darkness of a Lospalos night, reminding me of an unamplified version of Central Java. In Java, the crackle of cheap sound systems cuts in and the harmonic voices from the mosques collide, crash and run over each each other in the morning or evening air, competing for time or chasing some kind of improbable synchronisation. But here, just a sole unamplified voice rolls through the streets, clear and crisp like the night breeze from the hills.

In many ways, Lospalos seems like the last place you would hear the call to prayer from a mosque. The countryside surrounding the capital of Timor’s Easternmost district was where some of the most violent resistance against the Indonesian occupation took place. While I’m not surprised to see Muslims in Dili wearing colourful jilbab, it surprises me to hear the mosque here in this district where the traditional beliefs are as strong as the Catholicism and the importance of one’s life is marked by the number of buffalo skulls atop their grave. Six hours drive from Dili, Lospalos life is a culture unto itself. But it is a testament to Timor’s ways that the mosque exists and sings and fits among all the other sounds in the hushed night.

This is my second time to Lospalos. Since my last visit in February, the town now has 24-hour electricity (before it was still only available for 18 hours a day, before that even less) and fixed internet connections for offices.

At night though, it is dark. There are no streetlights, only the occasional muted beams softly permeating a flowered front window curtain. You will hear the occasional hello from someone on an unlit porch. ‘Bonoite’ from a passing shadow. The strumming of an invisible guitar.

If you forget your torch, you walk the roads by feeling with your feet for holes. There are a handful of lights outside shops on the main street and the occasional motorbike headlight might pass by, but other than that it is just you, the night sky and that single muezzin singing the adhan to a tune that sounds mournful and hopeful in equal measures.

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