Chapter 1: Long history
Best known for the 1984 Olympic Winter Games and the longest siege of a capital city in a history of modern warfare, Sarajevo and the area that surrounds it has been continuously inhabited by humans since the Neolithic Ages, when Butmir Neolithic culture flourished (26 and 25th centuries B.C.)
Bronze Age brought Illyrians, the ancient people who considered the West Balkan as their homeland. They had several settlements in Sarajevo Valley, and they were known as the last people in the region of present Bosnia and Herzegovina to resist Roman occupation. They were finally defeated by Emperor Tiberius in 9 A.D.
Chapter 2: An ancient spa
In Roman times, the area around the present suburb Ilidža was the site of the town called Aquae Sulphurae. Numerous traces of Roman civilization - mosaics, ceramics, jewelry, coins, and even structural remains - had been found at that location. Near Ilidža is the spring of the River Bosna (see the photo), one of the country's top natural landmarks and is one of the most famous scenes of natural beauty in the region.
During the most glorious period of the Middle Ages, Bosnia was an independent kingdom (between 1377 and 1463) but the history and role of the settlements in Sarajevo valley at this time is debated.
Chapter 3: The birth of a metropolis
What we know today as Sarajevo was founded by the Ottomans, who occupied Bosnia in 1463. The first governor of Bosnia transformed the cluster of villages into a city, building a number of public structures, such as a mosque, marketplace, public bath, a castle, called saray in Turkish, hence the name of the city.
Chapter 4: The long-lasting legacy:
No other person left a greater cultural legacy and socio-economical impact on Sarajevo during the Ottoman rule than its second governor, Gazi-Husrev Bey, a son of a Bosnian father and Turkish mother. Widely considered as Sarajevo's greatest patron, he financed and had built much of Sarajevo's old city at this time.
At every time of prayer in this mosque, the Sarajevo’s greatest benefactor has been remembered.
Gazi-Husref Bey vakuf (‘legacy of perpetual endowment’) included a mosque (built in 1531), madrasa (school), library, soup kitchen, hospice, khan (inn), bazaar, public baths and two tombs.
Chapter 5: Good deeds drive away evil
Gazi Husrev-Bey also built the city's clock tower (Sahat-Kula). Under his rule, Sarajevo became one of the most advanced cities in Europe, with its own water system, clock tower, bathhouses, and public schools. In a time when education was merely for the wealthy, and most Europeans considered baths to be unhealthy, the residents of Sarajevo were among the cleanest and most culturally advanced commoners on the continent.
In his legacy, Gazi-Husrev Bey stated: "Good deeds drive away evil, and one of the most worthy of good deeds is the act of charity, and the most worthy act of charity is one which lasts forever. Of all charitable deeds, the most beautiful is one that continually renews itself.”
Chapter 6: Glorious past
At its height, Sarajevo was the biggest and most important Ottoman city in the Balkans after Istanbul itself. By 1660, the population of Sarajevo was estimated to be over 80,000. Comparatively, Belgrade in 1838 had a mere 12,963 inhabitants, and Zagreb as late as 1851 had only 14,000 people. (Belgrade and Zagreb are present capitals of neighborhood Serbia and Croatia, respectively).
Chapter 7: A harmony of new and old or a clash of the past and present?
Ali-Pasha's Mosque was constructed in Sarajevo during 1560-61 as a vakuf (legacy or perpetual endowment) of Hadim Ali-pasha, another Ottoman governor of the Bosnia. The mosque was built according to the classical Istanbul architectural style. The dome covers the prayer area and three small domes cover the cloister. Because of its noble proportions it stands at the top of the scale of all sub-dome mosques that have been constructed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city transit artery runs between the mosque and the main city park dotted with centuries old tombstones (nišani).
Chapter 8: The tamed pigeons of Bašcaršija
Sarajevo's old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of the city was built in 15th century when Isa-Beg Isakovic, Sarajevo’s first Ottoman Governor, founded the town.
Chapter 9: Where the East meets West
Austria-Hungarian Empire conquered Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, and annexed it completely in 1908. The architects and engineers from all across the Empire continued building Sarajevo as a modern European capital, making the city a unique blend of Ottoman and contemporary western architecture.
Chapter 10:Peace and war; life and death
This is a relatively modern part of Sarajevo with a new cemetery in the background. When the Second World War was over, the new socialistic government invested heavily in Sarajevo, building many new residential blocks. Before the Bosnian War 1992-1995, Sarajevo had about 526.000 inhabitants. During the siege, nearly 10,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. Today, population if the city is estimated to be about 311.000.
(Photos and text by J.T.)