The serenity of the Blagaj Tekija:  Bosnia’s oldest Dervish monastery

When someone uses the term serene – a certain image or place comes to mind.  In many ways, the Blagaj Tekija or Tekke is a quintessential place of reflection and in the past, prayer and isolation.

Today, the tekija draws thousands of visitors to its turquoise spring and ancient Medieval and Ottoman-era stone structures. The Blagaj tekke is often used as one of the go-to images when researching travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even though it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, don’t let that dissuade you. It’s a must-visit site to recharge your batteries and even learn a little bit about Bosnia’s long, and interesting history.

The tekke itself (constructed in 1522) is located in the town of Blagaj, only a short drive away from the city of Mostar and its beautiful Stari Most (Old Bridge), which is another must-visit site. Blagaj was most likely named so because of its mild temperatures (from the Bosnian root word blag – mild). The town sits at the spring of the Buna river and has long been inhabited by people long before the Sufi dervishes made it their home.

It is possible that a Roman settlement or castrum (fort) was present on the site, and before that, an Illyrian settlement or outpost. A Medieval fort served as the seat of power for Sandalj Hranic – a regional duke and de facto administrator in the territory. With the arrival of the Ottomans in 1466, several new buildings were constructed within the city, including several bridges, guest houses, mosques, and other religious buildings which you can still explore today.

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Children fishing at the edge of the Buna river in Blagaj

The Blagaj tekke itself was constructed as a Sufi dervish lodge in 1520. It stands at the very sources of the ice-cold Buna river and its mysterious spring caverns. There are several components to the architecture that constitutes the tekke – including a guest house (musafirhana), and a mauloleum (turbe). The tekke was used primarily for religious purposes such as chanting and invoking the names of God as a place of reflection and prayer. 

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Sufi dervishes

Some have stipulated that this Sufi tradition has built upon existing Bosnian Church practices of gathering near the source of rivers and other important markers – thereby establishing a continuity of several religious traditions in the country. The tekke is still considered a place of holy pilgrimage for many people in the country – a tradition that is second only to the Ajvatovica celebration.

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