In the shopping malls of Dubai, when it is time to pray, the call for prayer is played. All stores turn off their music so that this can be heard. I am not sure if this is the same throughout the Gulf, but if a place as cosmopolitan as Dubai is doing it, then I would assume so.
In some ways, I think its kind of nice for those who want to pray. However, there are many other ways that people are reminded. Obviously they can just check their watches and see. If they want to go old school, they could look at where the sun is in the sky - at least I assume that's how it was done. Some who work at computers can probably get automated messages or set alarms. The most high techie way I've ever heard, literally, was an alarm on a telephone. When it was time to pray, Allah Akhbar would begin and it would continue until that person turned off the phone or until it was finished with the entire thing.
I don't really mind it. I do prefer the live version from a mosque. And when the Imam has a good voice, its quite nice. Recently I would also look forward to it because my son started to kind of sing along about 4 or 5 months ago. I have never drawn attention to it for him. He simply heard it one day and being the music lover he is decided to join in.
I never really gave it a second thought until today. - Of course the first few times I heard it, I was surprised, but kept going on about my business. But really, its not a bad idea to stop and pause as we are running around in the rat race of our daily life to give thanks or reflect or whatever that may be. I am sure there are people in other faiths who pray many times a day and that is cool too whatever your reminder may be.
When at work, I often find myself wondering if my colleagues come back a bit more refreshed and focussed? You know how they say if you take a break, then you can focus more. Maybe that big solution or mega idea will surface after taking a reality check.
Today what I really wanted to ask a local was: Since traditionally the call to prayer could be heard from the mosques throughout the villages or cities, I wonder if it was used for other things. For most people I know in the West, when we were young our moms said be home before dark. Did you have to be home before a certain prayer call, or at that prayer time? Thinking of this, I think thought that might be cool for the kid who could negotiate it to a few hours later for the next prayer call. Those of us who had to be home before dark had no chance - only one sunset :)