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Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe (Bradt Travel Guides (Travel Literature))

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Alsup, William (2001). Missing in the Minarets: The Search for Walter A. Starr, Jr. El Portal California: The Yosemite Association. pp. 105-107+116. ISBN 978-1-930238-18-3. I’d come to Gjirokastër as part of a family road trip to seek out Europe’s living indigenous Muslim presence and to follow in Evliya’s footsteps. I was hoping to see this part of the continent as he did, when it really was Muslim Europe – under Ottoman rule at the height of the empire’s powers. How can we care about something we don’t even know is there?’ asks Tharik Hussain. Europe has long turned a blind eye or, worse, looked askance, at its own Islamic self – the Muslims of the Balkans. Tharik Hussain opens our eyes to this vivid, varied and still vital Muslim presence. His title is romantic, but not his vision: he ignores neither current sectarian tensions, nor histories scarred by violence and hatred. And yet he constantly reminds us of the long periods of tolerance and symbiosis, often forgotten in the din of war. This is a richly detailed travelogue by a humane and passionate pilgrim.”

As a Muslim myself, I certainly stress the opinion of the importance of “adab” or “manners” in educating the Muslims, let alone the non-Muslims. I think it is certainly the real interpretation of Islam. It’s so proud to know that the author experienced the portrayal of real and actual Muslims throughout his trips - kindness. What makes this book unique is that it is written from the perspective of a Muslim in England, writing about “what is generally seen as a white person’s territory”. Hussain’s book is the first account of the Balkans from a Western Muslim, maybe the first since Evilya Çelebi. Dawson Minaret - 11,920ft, class 5 A complicated climb from North Notch. See Secor's description for details. Wanting to discover more about these people, Tharik Hussain sets off with his wife and young daughters around the Western Balkans in search of the people there. As he travels from Bosnia & Herzegovina to Serbia and Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania he finds is a thriving Muslim community. He visits the Mostar Bridge that was rebuilt after it was destroyed during the Croat–Bosniak War, prays in mosques that are older than the Sistine Chapel and talks to many different factions of Muslims from Sunni’s to dervishes.In Western Europe, any mention of the Balkans most likely dredges up images of conflict. The Bosnian war in the 1990’s and the subsequent ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces, saw the deaths of thousands of Bosnians- a truly immeasurable loss. While reflecting on the tragedy during his visit to the country, Tharik also highlights the cultural achievements and historic legacy that that survives today – something that often goes unnoticed in the long shadow cast by war. A magical, eye-opening account of a journey into a Europe that rarely makes the news and is in danger of being erased altogether. Another Europe. A Europe few people believe exists and many wish didn’t. Muslim Europe. Winner of a BGTW Members’ Excellence Award: Travel Narrative Book of the Year – The Adele Evans Award. Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2021. Shortlisted in the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards 2022: Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. There is cultural and natural beauty in abundance, from Podgorica’s Ottoman Old Town in Montenegro to fortresses in the rugged Albanian mountains to Sarajevo, one of Europe’s great cities, where coffee rules and the places of worship of various religions live happily side by side.

What did it all mean? Perhaps historically it was meaningless as far as our inclinations for war are concerned. The war had come and gone. Bosnia and Herzegovina were disputed on all sides and abused when the former Yugoslavia splintered. The Bozniak Muslim population was cornered and fired upon from the heights surrounding the city. It was horrible. It is always devastatingly horrible. We should hang our heads in shame. In fact, we saw a book titled Shame On You Europe. It seemed pointless to buy the book. There are many ambitious forces in the world, and ambition, geopolitically, seems to have led to war.

Unable to find any recent Muslim travel writing on the region, Hussain’s guide and companion for his trip became Evliya Celebi, an Ottoman traveller who had written about the area some four and a half centuries ago when the Balkans were part of the Muslim empire. A magical, eye-opening account of a journey into a Europe that rarely makes the news and is in danger of being erased altogether. Another Europe. A Europe few people believe exists and many wish didn't. Muslim Europe. Longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2021.

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