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Ottoman era begins in 1461 when the city was founded by the first Bosnian governor Ishak-beg Isaković (Ishak Bay Isaković), a pioneer in planned construction. He had the Careva džamija (Emperor’s Mosque) built first; followed by Tekija (Khanqah), lodgings, administrative center and housing court he named Saraj, which is how Sarajevo got its name. In Baščaršija, he builds Kolobara Han (Kolobara Inn), a hotel in modern terms, which was soon surrounded by a multitude of shops creating the economic basis for the development of the city.
Kozja ćuprija bridge (Goat Bridge) was built upstream from the village of Brodac in the 16th century, and today is an easy, half hours walk from Bentbaša along the Dariva Street.
Another permanent stamp was left by Gazi Husrev Beg (Gazi Husrev Bey), triple Bosnian Steward and Builder. In 1530, with his own money, he built the most monumental building of Islamic culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the largest sacral object of Islamic architecture in this part of the world, Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, sitting on the right bank of the river Miljacka. Bey Mosque, together with mekteb, wudu inn, two octagonal mausoleums and the clock tower building is the central and largest complex of the “čaršija”, and has had a significant influence on all construction activities in the city. It is also the first mosque in the world to install electrical lighting. A clock tower – Sahat kula about 30 meters high was constructed next to the mosque. Following the example of Constantinopole madrasas, Gazi Husrev Bey also built a madrasah with a library across from the mosque.
Generally, over 100 mosques were built in Sarajevo during the 15th and 16th century, most famous ones apart from Gazi Husrev Beg are Alipašina and Ferhadija mosques. All Sarajevo mosques had not only religious role, but also cultural and educational and represented hearts of residential areas, surrounded by 5 or 6 streets.
Sarajevo, like many Levant cities at the time, was divided on Čaršija – a commercial area and the peaceful residential areas – Mahala. Mahalas were built on the surrounding slopes from the center towards the outskirts. People lived in mahalas and they did their business in čaršija. The commercial center of the city is Baščaršija. There are over 1000 shops located there. The streets of Čaršija bare names of old crafts: Kazazi (button makers), Kujundžiluk (jewelers), Kazandžiluk (copper smiths), Sarači (sewing quilts and rugs), Mudželiti (bookbinders), Kovači (blacksmiths), Sarači (leather workers), Bazerdžani (head of trade), Ašćiluk (restaurants), while the streets of residential areas had names like Behar (buds), Cvijetna (flower), Karanfil Mahala (coronation mahala), Pod Trešnjom (under the cherry tree), Višnjik (black cherry), Podhrastovi (under the oak tree), Sedam šuma (seven woods).
If you want to experience Baščaršija in the best way, you should, by all means, take a stroll down Bravadžiluk Street. Within the Blacksmiths (Haddan) Bazaar, which was formed in the 16th century, over time individual craftsmen specialized in making locks and padlocks, which is how this street was named. However, nowadays Bravadžiluk represents a gastronomic paradise in Baščaršija and along this street you will find some of the most famous Sarajevo čevapčići, pita and ašćinica food shops.
Sarajevo is also famous for its large number of public taps, shadirvans and fountains (sebilj), which supplied the city with water, as well as decorating it. Sarajevo had water supply system as early as mid-15th century which was not the case in many European cities at the time.
The Islamic tradition of building charitable city fountains – Sebil goes back 13 centuries. Today, Baščaršija Sebilj is the only facility of its kind, although famous Sarajevo chronicler Mula Mustafa Bešeskija states that there was once over 100 Sebiljs. They all burned down in the great fire of 1697.
Just a short walk from the Bey Mosque is the old Orthodox Church. Although it is unclear exactly when it was built, it is considered one of the oldest religious monuments in Sarajevo.
During the mid 16th century, Sarajevo was also inhabited by Jewish population, who, when fleeing Spain found refuge only within the Ottoman Empire. Jews have settled some 200 meters below the old Orthodox Church where han (inn) was built for them by Major Sijaruš-Paša using his own funds. Veliki Hram (Great Temple) was built in Velika avlija (Great Courtyard) and it was the first Jewish place of worship or kortidžo, as they called the complex in their own language. Today, Velika avlija Laure Papo Bahorette, the oldest synagogue in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a home to the Museum of BiH Jews, while the Great Temple is now “galerija Novi Hram” (New Temple Gallery).
At the beginning of the 17th century, the population of Sarajevo was almost entirely Muslim. But that was not always the case, nor will it be in times to come. This area is the borderline between Eastern and Western Roman Empire and the Romans were never able to Romanize ancient Illyrians. The Slavs managed to impose their language and culture between 5th and 11th century. Between 11th and 15th century, a multireligious state was created and is still remembered for not belonging to anyone but its own people. This self-confident Bosnian nation could allow a mosque, a Catholic and an Orthodox church to be built in the middle of Čaršija, all within a 200m diameter. Books and records were written in everyone’s own language using Latin, Cyrilic and Arabian script, as well as preserving one of the oldest Jewish books – Hagada.
It will forever be remembered that in October 1819 in Sarajevo, about 3000 Muslims rebelled against the Bosnian governor Mehmed Ruždi-paše (Mehmed Pasha Rushdie), using force to liberate several unfairly arrested Sarajevo Jews. For a long time after, that day, 4th Marcheshvan (August) was celebrated in Jewish community as the day their distinguished people were liberated.
The first major bridge after Bentbaša is Šeher-Ćehajina ćuprija (Šeher-Ćehaja Bridge) or Šeherija. It was built in 1620 by the then Major of Sarajevo Husein Hodžić, hoping he will be remembered for it.
Above Šeher-Čekajina Ćuprija is Alifakovac, today perhaps the best preserved part of the old ways of residential construction in Sarajevo, with steep alleys dotted with houses in a way that each has a great view and nobody blocks each other. The construction was done with care because Sarajevo was famous for neighborhood care and solidarity. Best example is the story about Avdaga Trampa, a distinguished Sarajevan who was selling his house and had set the price of 300 ducats. When buyers questioned the price, Avdaga would explain that the house itself was worth 100 ducats, neighbors on the left 100 ducats, and neighbors on the right 100 ducats.
Alifakovac is also known for its cemetery, where famous people from Sarajevo have been buried for five centuries, as well as those who came from far away and ended their lives in Sarajevo. Famous French architect Le Corbusier was so impressed by the view stretching from there that he said it was the most beautiful graveyard he had ever seen.
From Baščaršija, we go up the road and through Kovači neighborhood after which we can immediately see the two towers: Širokac and Ploča, which are now an integral part of the Alija Izetbegović Museum. This is where Vratnik begins. Fortified walls and gates around the city – along Vratnik, were built in 1697, after Eugene of Savoy burned the city. All that remains of old Vratnik are towers, ramparts and gates that bear witness to times long gone.
A short distance from the tower Ploča, in Saburina Street is the Saburina kuća (Family Sabur’s House), one of the few surviving examples of residential architecture of the Ottoman period in Sarajevo. The House of Sabur, a prominent Sarajevan family of coppersmiths and traders, after whom the street was named, contains original interior with traditional handmade furniture, as well as replicas of traditional costumes for the Bay and his wife. The original costumes are displayed in Brusa bezistan.
In the old days, Isa-begova ćuprija (Isa Bey Bridge) used to be opposite Careva džamija (Emperor’s Mosque). This wooden bridge was replaced by another famous Sarajevan, Husref-beg (Husref Bey). His stone bridge with four arches has resisted time until 1896. A year later and 30 meters upstream, the new Carev most (Emperor’s Bridge) was built. It was the first reinforced concrete bridge in Sarajevo.
The next bridge, Latinska ćuprija (Latin Bridge) has symbolized the line where cultures meet for over 200 years. It was named after Latinluk, the alley on the right which used to be populated by a colony of Dubrovnik merchants and merchant agents.
Not far from the bridge is Despića kuća (Despić House) which not only represents the lifestyle of a wealthy Orthodox family from the 17th century, but can be considered a forerunner of modern theatre as first theatre plays were performed there. Despić family donated the house to the City along with another building which today houses the Museum of Literature and Performing Arts.
Between Latin Bridge and the next bridge, on the left bank of Miljacka is the Music Pavillion, built on a former horse racetrack Atmejdan. The original pavilion was burned down in 1941 when Sarajevo was under German occupation.
Our journey through Ottoman Sarajevo ends on Ćumurija (Charcoal) Bridge. It used to be a wooden bridge and was replaced by a metal bridge in 1886 using materials left over from the construction of the railway line Bosanski Brod – Zenica. It was named Ćumurija (charcoal) because it was where people used to dispose the leftovers from burning charcoal.