Over the years, I was often asked by my friends and acquaintances, does it make sense to at all visit Sarajevo in the time of the holly month Ramadan and then afterwards during second holiday, Bayram . People often have an impression that Sarajevo is solely a muslim city, which is during the month of Ramadan totally quiet and devoted to the religious procedures and offers no content for touristic visits, other then religious.
This is quite wrong prejudice! As in Yugoslavia any kind of religious expression was forbidden, after the war in 90is all the religions in this area revived themselves through more public celebrating of religious holidays. The fact is that today most of Sarajevo inhabitants are muslim (but not all). The holly month Ramadan being quite long, changes the city’s atmosphere in this time, culminating with celebration of the next holiday – Bayram, in the end of it. However, the city has a special atmosphere during the catholic or orthodox holidays too, like Christmas and New Year. Recently we witnessed a wonderful atmosphere in Sarajevo, during the visit of the pope Francis. More about this in my previous post.
Part of this prejudice includes believe that all the muslims in Sarajevo are fasting and are very religious, which is only partly true. In my experience, most of muslim people from Sarajevo do believe in God according to islam. Big amount of them practice fasting during Ramadan and go to the mosque. But also there is a part which does not follow these requirements and live normal day to day life as in any other time of the year. However, almost everybody is, out of solidarity and respect towards the religion and those who are religious, adjusting their behaviour a bit during this month.
Ramadan is the time when you can expect to meet Sarajevo in its quieter addition-especially during the day. This is the time when people are fasting and not much socialising is happening. Still, you can be served with the fresh food and drinks wherever you go, like in any other time.
Ramadan is the special time in a year for Sarajevo. You can feel different atmosphere, everything is a bit slower than usually. As the day is coming to an end things start to speed up, there are more people on the streets and smells of food start to be more intensive. Especially if you go to those small streets in “mahalas” you will feel that great Ramadan spirit, when people geather to eat together.
If you meet some locals you are likely to be invited to join them for iftar, the first after fasting meal. Bosnian people are very hospitable and even those, who are not wealthy will offer a lot of food to their guests to make them feel welcomed. Doing this tradition with locals will also help you to feel special spirit and enjoy together with them. Bosnian people are also known as ones with very good sense of humor so you will be also amused.
During the night, as these last few years Ramadan in in the summer, streets will get fuller. Some people will go to Teravia, night Ramadan pray and others will simply go out to cool down and eat some ice-cream. But that is all. Only a few will drink alcohol in this time and although you can buy alcohol quite normally, you should not expect a party atmosphere in bars and clubs. For this you should visit Sarajevo during Bayram, after the Ramadan ends.
Bayram is lasting three or four days and it is very eating and celebrating intensive holiday.
First day of Bajram almost everything will be closed. As of early morning, when the praying in mosque for men starts, you will be able to feel very festive atmosphere and to see a lot of nicely dressed people on the streets, rushing to visit their families. First day of Bayram is the day when people visit their closest family. This is the time when women cook a lot and everybody eats a lot. Especially sweet stuff like baklava.These family obligations are usually less intensive after lunch time, when more people will be on the streets.
Among young people, in the evening the real celebration will start, with friends in clubs and bars. Night life will be there in its full swing, including also a lot of alcohol.
Second day of Bayram is the time devoted for visiting the graves of the dead ones and also for meeting family members and friends. As the second and third days are passing also life goes back to normal.
And normal life in Sarajevo is far away from some traditional islamic environment, as it is in eastern islamic countries. Yes there are very religious people, covered women and strict rules in place also with some of people. On the other hand, a lot of the Sarajevo people do not practice these rules, living quite normally, keeping religion in place but not making it obvious to the outside world.
When you walk through streets of Sarajevo you can see covered women and those in mini skirts walking side by side, without publicly judging each other.
It is very special enviroment, where there are different religions, but also a lot of differences between each individual within single religion.
It is the same with tourists – anybody can find something for himself without being afraid to limit others with it or being judged by others. Because Sarajevo is city of diversities and it became like that by embracing diversiful people.
Everybody should take this post as an invitation to come and check it for their own. Just the first time. Every next time you will not need an invitation, your steps will leave traces to Sarajevo so you can keep coming back <3
MY BEST TIPS:
– when to visit: end of Ramadan and begining of Bayram
If you are coming in this period take the best from the both worlds – last few days of Ramadan, 3-4 and at least first two days of Bayram. This is how you will be able to feel both atmospheres and if you are wondering, how the islam spirit lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina this is the best way to find out. Especially important night is 27. night of Ramadan – Lailatul Qadar – The Night of Power. In Qur’an it is stated that this night is more worth than 1000 of months, which do not have this night. It is the night when Allah is especially merciful, forgiving and perceptive to your dreams and wishes. Irrespective what is your religion, this is a great chance to feel this hope and to reflect your own life and wishes. It is a chace for your own spiritual awarenes moment. After those calm days you will be able to enjoy Bayram in all of its chearfulness! 🙂
– where to have an iftar: Yellow fortress (Zuta tabija )
In Sarajevo it is very hard to find a place where food is not good. Still, the best atmosphere is on Bascarsija. For this occasion I recomend newly opened restaurant on the hill above Sarajevo – the Yellow fortress, where also the view is magnificant (location from this picture). This is also the place where the cannon signing breaking of the fast is fired from.