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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Short Walk in Muslim Sarajevo

A week ago I visited Sarajevo for the second time this year after a wonderful snowy trip in February which inspired the Smoke over Cevabdzinici blog post. While last time the focus was on the culinary aspects of the city this time I am showing a bit of its Muslim side. It simply happened like that as somehow, during this short walk, mosques came seemed beautiful to me especially in combination with surrounding nature and buildings.

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.

The Latin Bridge over Miljacka River

This is a closer plan of the same mosque. I made this picture because of the coexistence with this beautiful building of another architectural tradition.

Mosque and beautiful house

Sarajevo mosques are perceived on the background of the nearby mountain.


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.

Ring of Fire

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.

Night Rose in Mosque Yard

The picture below is from Tbilisi, Georgia but I looked through my pictures for other beautiful mosques that I have seen.

Mosque, Tbilisi, Georgia

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.



Lorac said...

Truly ornate and beautiful! Your text in the beginning is a good introduction to why you show the mosque pictures. Good write up.

I_am_Tulsa said...

Regardless of history or place, I think beautiful architecture is good for the eye... Thank you for this glimpse into another culture.
Rumi's poetry is beautiful too...

Delwyn said...

Hi Jelica

Thanks for the lovely mosques and the reminder to remain open minded in the midst of negative twisted propaganda and media mongering.

I have read some Rumi in the past and loved it. I also did Sufi meditation for a while and found it novel and rewarding.

Happy Days

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I really enjoy all your travel posts but this one was particularly good as you tried to help us understand a bit of the beautiful aspects of Islamic culture. That mosque in the last picture is very beautiful. I am also interested in the Dervishes.

Jelica said...

There is a fantastic book called "Dervish and death" ("Dervis i smrt" in Serbian) by one of my favorite ex-Yu writers, Mesa Selimovic.