SARAJEVO: As the leaves begin to fall and the European landscapes become colored with autumnal hues, a captivating expedition awaits you. It’s a journey that invites you to walk in the footsteps of the Arab-Muslim pioneers who left an indelible mark on this continent – from the bustling bazaars of Sarajevo to the elegant Alhambra palace of Granada, Spain.
Day 1: Arrival in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
At the first light of dawn, your journey begins in the heart of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This city where East meets West is an emblem of resilience and intercultural heritage. Echoes of its Ottoman past resonate in the labyrinthine streets of Bascarsija, Sarajevo’s Old Bazaar, as well as in the city’s historical and cultural center, built in the 15th century. The air is filled with the fragrant aroma of spices and the calls of the merchants create a symphony of languages as varied as the products they offer.
The Gazi Husrev-beg mosque and its multiple domes is five hundred years old. A masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, it is a silent witness to the history that took place within its walls. The intricate details of the mosque’s façade tell stories of faith, culture and the interweaving of civilizations.
Day 2: discovery of Sarajevo
The sun rises over Sarajevo, casting a warm glow over the city’s rich history. Today, you will discover the different facets of this dynamic city. Svrzo’s house appears like a living museum; it offers a glimpse into the daily life of an Ottoman-era family. The Sarajevo War Tunnel, built between March and June 1993 during the siege of Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian War, is a stark reminder of the city’s recent past and a testament to its enduring spirit and resilience.
Day 3: Travel to Skopje, North Macedonia
It’s time to travel to the captivating city of Skopje, North Macedonia. To get there, all it takes is a short flight and, upon landing, the majestic Vardar River, a privileged witness to the vagaries of history, welcomes you.
One of the oldest and largest markets in the Balkans is Skopje’s Old Bazaar, a maze of cobbled streets and artisan shops. It attracts with its Ottoman era charm. Here you will find hidden courtyards and intricately designed facades reminiscent of a bygone era. Built on Roman foundations under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, the stone bridge, the city’s iconic symbol, spans the river, connecting the past to the present.
Day 4: Skopje and surroundings
Today, you’ll delve deeper into Skopje’s rich history as you venture beyond its borders. A day trip to Tetovo offers insight into the Arab-Muslim influence in the region. The six-hundred-year-old painted mosque, adorned with vibrant frescoes and intricate designs, is a testament to the enduring cultural exchanges that have shaped North Macedonia.
Back in Skopje, the city’s architectural wonders continue to unfold. Situated on the highest point of the city overlooking the Vardar River, the Kalé Fortress, whose foundations date back to the early 6th century, offers panoramic views of the cityscape. As the sun sets, you will find yourself immersed in this enchanting mix of cultures that characterizes Skopje.
Day 5: Travel to Granada, Spain
Your trip takes a new twist when you bid farewell to Skopje after setting your sights on the sunny landscapes of Granada, Spain. A flight transports you to a land where Moorish architecture and European charm intertwine harmoniously. When you arrive at your place of residence, the Alhambra Palace looms in the distance, promising you a world studded with architectural wonders.
Dating from 1238, the Alhambra, a masterpiece of Islamic art and culture, is your gateway to centuries past. The Nasrid palaces, with their intricate stuccowork and delicate mosaics, are a testament to the incredible gift of its artisans. The Generalife gardens, a quiet oasis of fountains and greenery, will be a moment of respite for you in your journey through this page of history.
Day 6: Albaicin to Granada
Granada’s charm extends beyond the walls of the Alhambra. The Albaicin district, with its narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses, transports you to another era. Granada’s Mezquita Mayor, a former mosque, reflects the city’s multicultural history and highlights the spiritual significance of the city.
Day 7: Travel to Lisbon, Portugal
Leaving the enchanting views of Granada behind, you board a flight to Lisbon, Portugal, a city that holds tales of explorers, poets and a rich mosaic of cultures. Settle into your accommodation and venture into the Alfama district.
Strolling through the tangled streets of Alfama, the Moorish influence is palpable. It resides in the graceful arcades that structure your path and in the tiles that adorn the buildings. Each tile tells the stories of centuries past.
Soulful fado tunes fill the air, stirring a deep sense of nostalgia. This genre of music, which has its origins in Arab-Portuguese poetry, encapsulates the complex emotions of saudade – a deep, melancholic feeling that clings to something that has been lost.
The essence of Alfama bears witness to the enduring legacy of the Moors and Arabs who once inhabited this neighborhood. Their architectural marvels and cultural contributions continue to shape Lisbon’s identity and remind us of the rich tapestry of influences that have shaped European heritage.
Day 8: Algarve adventure
Your journey takes you south to the Algarve, where golden beaches and rugged cliffs meet the azure waters of the Atlantic. Silves, a town with a rich history, features vestiges of Arab-Muslim influence in its red sandstone castle and archaeological sites. In Faro, the capital of the Algarve, the Arco da Vila gate invites you into the past and gives you access to its charming streets.
As your nine-day journey draws to a close, take a moment to reflect on the threads of history you’ve traced through these remarkable destinations. Cherish memories of Sarajevo’s bustling bazaars, Skopje’s Ottoman architecture, Granada’s Alhambra, Lisbon’s Alfama and the coastal splendor of the Algarve.
Whether you walked through bustling markets, serene courtyards, opulent palaces or modest neighborhoods, every step you took took you on a journey through time.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com