Travnik is a small but lively town in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s mostly known for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture. The star of the show is definitely the šarena džamija or painted (or coloured) mosque, with its unique decorations and small, relaxed muslim community. Travnik is also famous for its fortress which offers great views on the old town. The town has an interesting history, having been the capital of the Ottoman governors in Bosnia for a while. Plus, it’s the hometown of Nobel-winning writer Ivo Andrić, so there’s a museum dedicated to him.
Šarena Džamija or Painted Mosque
The Šarena Džamija (sometimes called Sulejmanija) is a mosque located in the historical part of Travnik, where the trading district, or čaršija, used to be. It is believed to have been built in the 16th century. Its current form dates back to the early 19th century when it was rebuilt after a fire. The mosque got its name because of the unusual decorations on both the interior and exterior, which are full of floral and geometric details in various colors.
Photos of Šarena Džamija or Painted Mosque
Exploring Travnik and Coffee with Imam
I’ve visited many mosques around the world, so the usual visiting etiquette for non-Muslims is clear to me. However, the Šarena Džamija was a pleasant surprise. We first arrived in the evening, just as people were going for their prayers. One of the local ladies approached me to say welcome, and she was surprised when I responded in Bosnian. She invited me to visit the mosque and to come back the next day. I was amazed by how welcoming and relaxed everyone was. I was even allowed to take photos quietly while prayers were going on.
The next day, we headed to the mosque early in the morning to capture some blue-hour photos and catch the morning prayer. However, the mosque was locked. A friendly waiter next door told us that the mosque opens at 1 PM. We used the morning to explore the old part of Travnik and had a Bosnian-style brunch at Hari—I had to try the best čevapčiči in Bosnia and Herzegovina!
We returned around 1 PM and visited the mosque. Again, the atmosphere was relaxed, and I was able to take photos inside. After the prayer, Asim, the Imam, approached me, shaking my hand and welcoming me in English. He too was surprised when I responded in Bosnian. He kindly agreed to pose for a couple of photos. We chatted for a while, and then he invited us for coffee at his favorite place next to the mosque. We talked about the mosque, the local Muslim community, his education, his career as an imam (or hodža in Bosnian), and his family. Asim treated us to strong Bosnian coffee from a džezva and a super-sweet dessert called trileća. What a nice experience!
Spending a day in Travnik was a lovely experience, and I got to visit and photograph one of the most beautiful mosques in the region. (Check out my photographs of the Ljubljana mosque too!) Walking around town, meeting people, sipping coffee, enjoying good food, and taking some great photos—that’s my way of traveling.
If you happen to have some spare time while traveling through Bosnia, definitely visit Travnik and its colorful mosque. But don’t stop there; climb uphill to the fortress for the town views, visit Ivo Andrić’s birth house, try the local Travnik cheese, and get some čevapčiči at Hari’s. And if Bosnian coffee is too exotic for you, grab an espresso and some dates at Kayaf.
To discover more scenic places and photo spots in Bosnia and Herzegovina, check out Photohound—I’ve added many photo spots myself!