Touring Bosnia, The Halal Way

Halal Holidays Bosnia

The injuries of the Bosnian war are healing, but scars still remain. The Balkans is a peninsula that has the black sea to its East, the Mediterranean to its south and the Adriatic Sea in the West of the peninsula. It was once one country -Yugoslavia, but sectarian violence, foreign intervention and ethnic cleansing became so rife in the country that it created a domino effect of smaller and smaller countries forming and declaring independence from each other on the base of religious and ethnic identities. This process left such a mark on the region and the rest of the world that the English dictionary now defines the continued division of states into smaller and smaller independent entities with enclaves and exclaves as ‘Balkanization’ even if it happens anywhere else in the world. Millions of Muslim Bosniaks lost their lives to the ethnic cleansing of the Orthodox Christian Serbs. The ethnic cleansing escalated to become a complete outright war that began in the April of 1992 and ended in the December of 1995, with the creation of a newly independent State of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia has about 55% Muslim population and the rest comprise of Catholic Croats. International peace accords, enforced by peacekeeping entities and countries keep the concord between the parties solemn for 25 years now. The war gave the country a miserable beginning, but Bosnia and Bosnian tourism are on the rise. The war can rob many things, but it can never rob the cool and content Bosnian Sun, the breeze blowing with the sublimating morning dew over the fresh spring grass and a silence that soothes and excites the soul at the same time.

Sarajevo is open again. It is ready to receive and entertain guests with the subtlety that places like Paris exude, but without the disturbing hustle and bustle of the people and more tourists and the rush of businesses that want to make a quick buck out of unsuspecting guests. Tourism after the war has been increasing at 24% every year, from 1995 to 2000. The World Economic Forum declared in 2013 that Bosnia is the Eighth friendliest country in the world with respect to tourism and foreign visitors. The growth in Bosnian tourism continues at almost 11% every year since 2014 till 2016. The Lonely Planet, which is a renowned tourism advising and rating website, marked Sarajevo as among the top ten cities to visit in the world, making the city of Sarajevo the prime place to visit in the Balkan Peninsula, after the city of Athens, Greece.

As the country stabilized, many middle-eastern businessmen, from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have established businesses there. The country now is being exposed to its Islamic roots, as the economy grows and the young Bosnians want to discover their identities. While there is an area in Bosnia where alcohol is consumed and served due to a significant Christian minority, but as the number of Arab tourists increases, who truly enjoy the weather Bosnia provides, large sections of the market places are reserved for Muslim eatery and living. Even the hijab is getting common, and most Bosnian women now tend to cover themselves completely from head to toe in public. It is estimated that the country hosts fifty thousand to sixty thousand new Arab tourists every year with a quarter of them buying property in Bosnia.  The Ottoman era cafes and restaurants that were once forced to serve alcohol to the minorities have now begun to refuse to serve and do not stock alcohol or pork in their restaurants. There is a growing wave of a silent shift in the demographics and cultural inclination of the country, especially in the Muslim population of Bosnia.

These subtle changes are welcomed by some but are agitating a few of the local population. The Bosnian economy was war ravaged just a few years ago; it requires foreign investment for the rebuilding effort. Not only are the Muslim investors from the Middle East shouldering the tourism industry of Bosnia, there is an influx of new money that the Bosnian government is now diverting into bettering the lives of the ordinary citizens of Bosnia. And the results are spontaneous. An amazing example is the city of Prijedor, which was a city of major Islamic and Orthodox Christian importance. It still has the old style buildings and the Mosques from the Ottoman period. The city saw massive renovation and reclamation from the period 2006 to 2009, with the building of roads, railways, hotels and the reconstruction of stone bridges that complement the heritage of Bosnia. The country is a hub for winter sports enthusiasts and a chance to escape the heat of the scorching summers of the Middle East and an opportunity to enjoy the calmness the Balkans now and hopefully forever.