While walking in Sarajevo with Ellen and Ana I was thinking again that Islam, Islamic art and architecture are somehow far from me and my cultural background and I have often felt unease in their presence. I don't know what it is about Islam that enhances its otherness so much. I assume it must be mainly the manifestation of its radical fractions and all the negative PR that we have been getting during the last decade after 9/11. For me personally, it must also be all the negative indoctrination about the Ottoman presence in Bulgaria from the 14th to the 19th century that kids use(d) to get in school.
Never mind, I am taking it as a personal mission in the future to get closer to Islam and therefore try to understand more and better.
Actually now that I am thinking of it for many years I have looked for manifestations of beauty in the little of Islam that I have seen. It maybe all started in 1995 in Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Alhambra is the only piece of architecture that has brought tears to my eyes. I thought that people who built this place and lived there revered harmony.
Ever since I haven't traveled much in Muslim countries except Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. And one can find great examples of Islamic architecture in Turkey like the early 17th century Sultan Ahmed (or Blue) Mosque in Istanbul for example.
I have never been closer to Islamic culture than in 1994-95 when I took a course on Islamic culture in university. We had a great professor who opened our eyes to Islamic poets, philosophers, etc. I don't remember much and I have never done any extensive reading but I am thinking of mystic poet Rumi now. I especially like the fact that God can be reached through music and dance inspiring the turning dervishes or the order of the Mevlevi. Now I remember that the museum of the turning dervishes in Istanbul was another Islam-related place where I have felt comfortable, especially in the presence of some sleeping cats. (It's a pity I can't find my pictures from there).
This renewed trip of understanding started a month ago when, while being in Serbia, I read the balanced chapter on Islam in Huston Smith's The World Religions. Now, I remember the simple revelation about the position of woman in Islam. It seems that Islam treatment of women was a huge improvement compared to pre-Islamic times. It is indeed true, as my friend Ellen noted, that 14 centuries have elapsed since then and I don't deny it but this information simply makes us think more about it and introduces some relativity to it.
But coming back to Sarajevo. Mosques there are numerous (Wikipedia mentions 186) including many new ones. Here is a view of the Miljacka river and the Latin Bridge with a minaret behind.
As if this mosque in the Old Carsija has a ring of fire. The tree is a friend of the minaret and keeps company during the long nights.
Islam must have a special relation with roses. Remember the Budapest Gul Baba. This one is in the yard of the above mosque and they set up the lamp in such a way so that the rose is seen well.
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.