Tour of the ancient Islamic empires of Europe

Tour of the ancient Islamic empires of Europe

Thousand-year-old mosques, historic baths and grand stays are scattered throughout Europe as markers of the Islamic empires that after dominated elements of the continent.

From Spain to Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, France and Portugal, vacationers can see spectacular bodily proof of the affect of the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Al Andalus, each Islamic states that formed Europe essentially the most. Listed below are three cities the place the Islamic footprint may be explored by vacationers.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Amongst a cluster of Catholic church buildings within the capital of predominantly Christian Bulgaria, a 500-year-old constructing stands out. I be part of a line of vacationers getting into this stunning outdated construction, which sits reverse Sofia’s Central Market within the metropolis’s downtown space. Inside is a ceiling embellished with intricate mosaics, with a big piece of Islamic calligraphy at its coronary heart.

That is Banya Bashi, the principle mosque in Sofia. When it comes to look, this metropolis is clearly formed by its historic ties to the USSR and the Roman Empire. Sofia is filled with imposing remnants of these eras, such because the gorgeous golden-domed Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the 4th-century Rotunda Church, constructed by the Romans when their empire included what’s now Bulgaria.

But Sofia’s Islamic historical past is simply as deep. For 500 years Bulgaria was below Islamic rule as a part of the Ottoman Empire. This helps clarify why Banya Bashi, with its teal dome and towering minaret, appears to be like like a miniature model of the long-lasting Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Turkish metropolis that was the Ottoman capital.

Banya Bashi was created by essentially the most well-known of all Ottoman architects, Mimar Sinan, who within the 1500s designed dozens of mosques and bridges that at this time are vacationer points of interest all through Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria . Sinan labored for the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Nice, below whose management this empire reached its peak, seizing Hungary and huge swaths of North Africa and the Center East.

By the point the Ottomans lastly misplaced management of Bulgaria within the 1870s, their ruling empire was crumbling. Vacationers to Sofia can study Bulgaria’s Islamic interval within the metropolis’s large Nationwide Historical past Museum. They’ll additionally head to the beautiful Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, the place the mighty Dzhumaya Mosque is in implausible situation, greater than 600 years after it was constructed.

Budapest, Hungary

An Ottoman-style enclosure at Budapest Zoo.  Photo: Ronan O'Connell

Other than being one of many oldest zoos in Europe, established in 1866, the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Backyard is a posh of eerie magnificence. It has a unusual mixture of architectural kinds, from understated communist buildings to its whimsical Artwork Nouveau entrance and an enclosure that mimics a Transylvanian church.

But the constructing that caught my eye as soon as I entered this leafy house was embellished with domes, a minaret, and blue-green glazed tiles. It’s instantly paying homage to the Ottoman structure of Istanbul.

It is logic. For about 150 years, till the late 1600s, the hungarian capital was occupied by the Ottomans. Though this magnificent enclosure was not constructed till the early 1900s, lengthy after the departure of the Ottomans from Budapest, it’s a reminder of the sturdy imprint of Islam on this metropolis.

Throughout the Danube from this zoo, overlooking downtown Budapest, are historic relics of the Ottoman occupation. This space, which presents vacationers an excellent view of the town, has three common points of interest relationship again to the Islamic period.

They embody the massive Rudas and Kiraly thermal baths, each over 400 years outdated. Guests to those baths can take pleasure in a steam tub or a standard hammam expertise. On the prime of the hill above the Kiraly Bathtub, vacationers come to see the majestic tomb of one in every of Suleiman the Nice’s most influential aides, Gul Baba. A preferred shrine for Turkish Muslims, this stone mausoleum is surrounded by a chic rose backyard, making it a worthy attraction for any traveler.

Cordoba, Spain

The Mezquita of Cordoba is a mosque and a cathedral.  Photo: Ronan O'Connell

Maybe my favourite constructing in all of Europe is within the underrated metropolis in southern Spain, Cordoba. Called La Mezquita, it’s not solely visually spectacular, but in addition distinctive in that it’s each a mosque and a cathedral. A monumental Moorish construction relationship again over 1,200 years, it appears to be like like a fortress from the skin, as a result of thick, excessive stone partitions that encompass it.

This imposing look provides manner, inside, to delicate design components. There are few interiors on this planet extra photogenic than the principle prayer corridor of the Mezquita. Dozens of striped arches create mesmerizing symmetry and distinction. Its excessive ceilings heighten the drama.

Very like Sofia and Budapest, Cordoba was formed by the Roman Empire, a legacy exemplified by the two,000-year-old Roman bridge that spans the Guadalquivir River, which crosses the town. Each occasions I visited Cordoba and walked north via this remarkably outdated construction, I felt like I used to be stepping again right into a bygone century, so nicely preserved and historic is the close by outdated city of Cordoba, residence to La Mezquita.

Islamic motifs are widespread on this UNESCO-listed outdated city. That is as a result of lasting affect of Al Andalus, a Muslim kingdom which from the early eighth century to the early eleventh century dominated many of the Iberian Peninsula, together with elements of what’s now Spain, Portugal and France. Cordoba remained below sturdy Islamic affect till the top of the fifteenth century. As we speak, this area of southern Spain, which incorporates different vacationer locations similar to Seville and Granada, is named Andalusia, a reference to this key interval in its historical past.

Up to date: 02 December 2022, 14:02

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