Stories of Sarajevo, where World War I began
Stories of Sarajevo, where World War I began
And yet, Sarajevo is also known for the sound of a gunshot that led to World War I a century ago. It was June 28, 1914, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s crown prince Franz Ferdinand was assassinated here by Gavrilo Princip.
The Great War left millions dead and made four empires disappear. A memorial plaque and video displays of photos from the assassination decorate a museum building at the downtown corner where Princip changed the world. The war’s centennial will be marked this summer with conferences, exhibits and concerts.
But World War I is just one era in the history of this multicultural city of 390,000, with its legacies of Islamic Ottoman, Jewish, Christian Orthodox and Roman Catholic religions. The city is fondly known for hosting the 1984 Winter Olympics. And it is infamously remembered as a key battleground of the Bosnian War in the 1990s.
Despite the dark chapters of the past, today the city is defined by what locals call “the Sarajevo spirit,” an interesting and mostly harmonious mix of religions and cultures. And any visit must include a look at how that blend came to be.
Start with the old town called Bascarsija.
Ottoman Turks founded Sarajevo here in the 15th century as a center of commerce with three malls, colonies of Venetian and Dalmatian traders and hundreds of shops. The tolerant empire filled the town’s skyline with minarets and church towers, attracting anyone who fled Europe’s Catholic inquisition.
When Queen Isabella of Spain expelled Sephardic Jews in 1492, thousands found refuge in “Yerushalaim chico,” or Little Jerusalem, which is how they nicknamed the city.
Sarajevo’s soul resides in this Oriental quarter and residents believe that time runs slower in its water pipe bars, mosques and crafts shops.
Tourists usually stop at the Sebilj fountain on the central square for selfies and to refresh themselves from one of its pipes — as locals sometimes whisper the first part of an old Sarajevo saying: “Whoever drinks water from Bascarsija...” The travel advisory ends by saying the water is cursed and will make you return to Sarajevo over and over till you die.
Perhaps better to turn to coffee — a gastronomic cult served in small copper pots and little cups with a sugar cube and glass of water aside.
Here is how it goes: Dip cube into coffee. Bite off the soaked part. Let melt on tongue. Sip coffee and let it flow over the sugar. Enjoy for a moment before you wash it down with water. Why? Because it makes every next sip of coffee taste like the first one.
Often there is an extra cup for whoever accidently comes by. A refusal to share is an insult. Locals spend hours drinking if only because it is a good excuse for prolonged conversation.
Real-time begins again where Bascarsija ends — and a new chapter in history opens.
In 1878, Bosnia turned from a western Ottoman province into a southeastern Austro-Hungarian province. The transition is visible at Ferhadija street near number 30.
Look west, and the secessionist-style four-story buildings and churches tell you: Central Europe. Perhaps Austria. Look east: perhaps some old part of Istanbul with the low, stone structures with oriental shops, minarets and water fountains.
In the chaotic century that followed Sarajevo was part of four different countries and in two wars, proving accurate Winston Churchill’s description of the Balkans: “Too much history for little geography.”
After it recovered from World War II and staged the 1984 Winter Games, Sarajevo was devastated by the Serb siege during the 1992-95 Bosnian war that left its residents hiding from 330 shells a day that smashed into the city.
People dug an 800-meter(half-mile) tunnel underneath the airport for supplies and the Tunnel Museum proves how dangerous passing through the narrow 1.6 meters (5 feet) high passageway was, bent through ankle-deep water while holding on to an electric cable.
Graves of some of the 11,541 victims of the siege fill the Lion Park. They are proof that the multi-religious “sound of Sarajevo” has a starkly visible dark side: white obelisks marking Muslim graves mix with Christian crosses and simple atheist headstones.
If You Go...
SARAJEVO TOURISM: http://www.sarajevo.ba/en/stream.php?kat=146
WORLD WAR I ANNIVERSARY EVENTS: http://sarajevo2014.com/en/events#world-war . Exhibits, conferences and other events are planned, including a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, June 28 at Sarajevo City Hall.
Mariam’s journey to North Pole ‘an inspiration for Saudi women’
- Mariam Hamidaddin was one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions.
- Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.
LONDON: Mariam Hamidaddin was skiing toward the North Pole in temperatures as low as minus 38 C when she was advised by her team leader to give up on her dream and take a helicopter back to base camp.
She did so reluctantly. Frostbite had taken its toll on the Jeddah-born entrepreneur’s hands, but with no previous experience of such climates, Hamidaddin was unaware of the severity. Only when she was assessed by a Russian medic who spoke pidgin English did she appreciate how close she was to losing her fingers.
“The words he told me were: ‘No chop’ ... which was scary but also a great relief to hear,” said Hamidaddin, one of 11 women from Europe and the Middle East taking part in the recent Women’s Euro-Arabian Polar Expedition, an initiative aimed to foster greater dialogue and inspire women to push their limits and fulfill their ambitions. Team leader Felicity Aston deliberately chose women with no athletic or Arctic experience with the intention of demonstrating that anybody can achieve their goals with determination.
As Hamidaddin discovered, however, having an expert on hand helps. The transition from frostnip to frostbite can be a matter of five or 10 minutes, so it is essential for people in extreme weather to pay attention to their body. The tiniest sign can help avoid severe consequences.
The 32-year-old had followed all the instructions learned during training camps in Iceland and Oman: She kept moving to circulate her blood and had not removed her gloves even once in the Arctic. She felt pain, yes, but the entire team had frostnip, so why should she consider quitting?
Fortunately for her future — and her fingers — the decision was taken for her.
“There was no proper moment where I realized I had frostbite,” Hamidaddin told Arab News after returning to the heat of Saudi Arabia. “If it was up to me, I would have wanted to continue, so I am extremely thankful that I was asked to evacuate because the frostbite gradually got worse and worse.
Basically, the team leader saved my fingers.”
Two weeks later and Hamidaddin still could not feel her fingertips. She struggles to cut a steak and needs help to tie her shoelaces. Medics say it could be months or even years before she fully recovers.
This month on her Instagram feed @InTuneToTheSound, she is posting photos of her journey in non-chronological order. The intention is to be “open and vulnerable and hopefully inspire people.” In a post, a video shows her typing at a computer using only her right pinky finger.
“There is a negative media perception of what a Saudi woman looks like and what she can and can’t do,” said Hamidaddin. “For this reason, it’s important for us to show that what you see in the media isn’t necessary a true reflection of who we truly are.
“It is also important to share our failures as well because when I see success upon success, I cannot connect with that. I am human, I have weakness and I fall, and I need to know that when I fall, I can rise again. Those stories are the ones that will connect most with people.”
With Saudi Arabia women now competing at the Olympic Games, being allowed to attend football matches at certain stadiums and the imminent lifting of a ban on driving, opportunities for women in the Kingdom are blossoming.
Hamidaddin, founder of the Humming Tree, a co-working space and community center that focuses on creativity and wellbeing, said she sees examples of strong, athletic and confident women every day.
“You can see them everywhere — women running, biking, climbing mountains,” she said.
“So we are already there. It’s just a matter of sharing these stories more. We are strong women; we know what we want and we find a way around it. We do what we need to do and we get it done. The fact that driving now is going to be open for us, just makes all that easier.”
Although Hamidaddin’s journey to the North Pole was cut short, the team’s doctor said she could wait out the expedition in the warmth of base camp and celebrate with her team when they reached their destination.
It was an opportunity that, even with frostbite, she was never going to turn down. What she found at the top of the world was a beautiful, dreamlike landscape — and, perhaps fittingly, a perpetual chase to reach her goal.
“Unlike the South Pole, which is a landmass, the North Pole is a constantly drifting landscape. It’s sea ice on top of the Arctic Ocean and it’s always moving, so you are constantly trying to catch it,” she said.
“One minute you’re on top of the world taking a photo and by the time you’re done taking it, well, the North Pole is a few miles away. You have to keep trying to catch it.”