Bascarsija is the medieval Oriental bazaar lying at the heart of Sarajevo’s Stari Grad (Old Town), where mosques and hammams (baths) date right back to 1462. The most important and grandest of Bascarsija’s mosques is Gazi Husrev-beg, named after a Turkish governor of Bosnia and built in 1530 in Ottoman style by the Persian architect Adžem Esir Ali. Originally a complex of prayer halls, madrasa (Koranic school), medieval soup kitchen for the Muslim poor, wash room and library, the mosque was badly damaged during the Balkan wars of the 1990s but has been extensively reconstructed; today its distinctive dome once more forms the heart of Bascarsija and its spiky minaret is a landmark visible all over Sarajevo.
The ornate entrance to the mosque is surrounded by marble and decorated with gilding; inside its gleaming white walls are adorned with Arabic inscriptions, the ceilings hung with golden chandeliers and the floors covered in handmade carpets gifted by Muslim visitors from overseas. The mosque’s peaceful courtyard is dominated by an elaborate wrought-iron fountain – once used for ritual washing – and is the resting place of many pre-eminent Bosnians, including the 19th-century poet Safvet Bey Bašagić and the leading politician of the 1930s, Dr Mehmed Spaho.
Sarači 8, Sarajevo. Open daily 9am–12pm, 2.30pm–4pm,
5.30pm–7pm. Admission to mosque 2 KM. Best accessed on foot through pedestrianized Bascarsija in Sarajevo’s Old Town. Be sure to dress appropriately when visiting the mosque; ladies must cover their heads, arms and legs; no shorts for men.