Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Isa-bey zawijah, the natural and architectural ensemble

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Status of monument -> National monument

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 15 to 21 March 2005 the Commission adopted a






The natural and architectural ensemble of the Isa-beg zawiyah in Sarajevo zavije u Sarajevu is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument consists of: the archaeological site of the Isa-beg tekke and burial ground for dervishes in the courtyard, the site of Šehova Korija with the Abu Hayat spring, two dervishes' nišan tombstones and a cave – ćilehan.

The National Monument is located on cadastral plot nos. 65, 65, 66 and 67 (old survey), Land Register entry nos. 60, 61 and 62, mahala XCVII, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, Municipality Stari Grad, Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The site of Šehova Korija consists of an area defined by the following limits: to the east, west and north by the bed of the river Miljacka, and to the south by the old Sarajevo-Višegrad railway line.

The provisions relating to protection and rehabilitation measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02 and 6/04) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, display and rehabilitate the National Monument.

The Government of the Federation shall be responsible for providing the resources needed to draw up and implement the necessary technical documentation for the rehabilitation of the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument, the following measures are hereby stipulated relating to the site defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision:

  • all works are prohibited other than the continuation of archaeological investigations and conservation and restoration works with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority),
  • the construction of new buildings and alteration of use of the area from Šeher-ćehaja bridge to Kozija ćuprija (Goat Bridge) over a width of 100 metres from the centre of the river Miljacka on both sides are prohibited,
  • a Regulatory Plan and planning ruling for the natural and architectural ensemble from Šeher-ćehaja bridge to Kozija ćuprija shall be drawn up
  • a detailed planning project based on the Regulatory Plan shall be drawn up for the presentation of the archaeological finds and the reconstruction of the components of the Isa-beg zawiyah in Sarajevo
  • a project for the revitalization of the area from Šeher-ćehaja bridge to Kozija ćuprija shall be drawn up, including landscaping using the existing indigenous plant species
  • the road shall be relocated in the section where it passes over the walls of the zawiyah and the traffic layout shall be altered entirely in the remaining section of the road
  • all buildings erected contrary to the degree of value of the natural and architectural ensemble shall be removed
  • a systematic study shall be conducted, including archaeological excavations, to identify the site of all major buildings in the area from Šeher-ćehaja bridge to Šehova Korija
  • the dumping of waste is prohibited.




            All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of the Federation, the Ministry of regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba) 




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH.


            This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović,  Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.


Decision No: 07.2-2-135/03-17                                       

16 March 2005                                                  



Chair of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

On 30 January 2003 the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Historical Heritage of Sarajevo submitted a petition to designate the Isa-beg tekke a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pursuant to the provisions of the law, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.




In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.
  • Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land registry entry)
  • Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.


The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the site are as follows:


1. Details of the property



The Isa-beg zawiyah was located at the eastern entrance to the town of Sarajevo in the part of town known as Bembaša (Bendbaša).  It was built at the egress from the river Miljacka gorge, where the river begins to run into the Sarajevo plain area.  Here, over the centuries, a ford was created, known locally as brod (ship), hence the name Brodac for the nearby mediaeval settlement that later became part of the town of Sarajevo.  The Šeher-Ćehaja bridge and Town Hall are in the immediate vicinity of the site of the zawiyah. The National Monument stood on c.p. nos. 64, 65, 66 and 67 (old survey), Land Registry entry nos. 60, 61 and 62, mahala XCVII, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, municipality Stari Grad, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The site of Šehova Korija is about 1200 metres to the east of the Isa-beg zawiyah, on a wide bend of the river Miljacka, very close to the point where the Mošćanica river flows into the Miljacka.  The road that runs along the left bank of the river, through the Alifakovac and Babića bašča quarters, leads to the site.  The site consists of an area defined by the following limits: to the east, west and north by the bed of the river Miljacka, and to the south by the old Sarajevo-Višegrad railway line.


Historical information

The first Sufi institutions (zawiyah, haneqah, tekke) in present-day Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were founded as the Ottomans conquered these regions.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina they first came into being prior to the final fall of the Bosnian regions, so that there were Sufi orders and institutions as early as the 15th century.  Since then more that forty tekkes have been built here.  There are indications that there was a significantly larger number, as Evliya Çelebi wrote, but there is no other documentary evidence to this effect.  These tekkes belonged to the Mevlevi, Qadiriyyah, Naqshbandiyyah, Rufaiyyah and Khalwatiyyah tariqahs.   Only five survive to this day – two in Sarajevo, and one each near Fojnica, in Blagaj near Mostar and in Travnik.  During the 1992-95 war, the tekkes in Foča, Carevo polje near Jajce, Oglavak near Fojnica and Divič near Zvornik were razed to the ground.

The Sufis, or dervishes as they are known in Bosnia, played a significant part in the Islamization of the country; as believers, with their piety and consistent observance of religious precepts, as humanists with their solidarity and the help they gave others, and as soldiers with their courage and resolve.  There were musafirhanas or hostels for travellers, and imarets or poor kitchens, alongside many tekkes, evidence of the social aspect of the role of the tekke and the teachings of Islam as a whole, of which the way the dervishes lived was the authentic expression.  All this impacted on the rapid spread of Islam in these regions(1) (ef. Omerdić, pp.129 – 140).

Sarajevo began to develop as an urban area in the mid 15th century with the erection of endowed buildings by Isa-beg Ishaković (2). As early as 1457 he built a mosque, which he gifted to Sultan Mehmed Fatih, hence its name of Careva (Imperial) mosque.  He then built his administrative headquarters or saray, from which Sarajevo takes its name.  Both the mosque and the saray date from before 1462, when Isa-beg Ishaković's vakufnama or deed of endowment was drawn up; his endowed edifices represent the start of the urbanization of the town, and the document, dating from 1 February to 3 March 1462 (Jumada-l-Ula 866 AH) (3).

Isa-beg regarded the mediaeval village of Brodac, in Bembaša, as a suitable site to found a new town, and took the land from its owners, giving them in exchange lands in the village of Vrančić in Hrasnica.  As a devotee of the dervishes, he built there a tekke, with a musafirhana beside it, and a han in Baščaršija (Kolobara) a little way downstream, a bridge over the Miljacka, a hamam by the Careva mosque, a number of shops and mills on the Miljacka.  A new residential quarter began to take shape around the tekke, with the building of a han or caravansarai with numerous shops, so that Isa-beg also made a start on the town's business centre, while his bridge over the Miljacka linked the oldest residential quarter, around the Careva mosque, with the new business area on the other bank.  Isa-beg made his properties into a vakuf or endowment

" ..so that they cannot be either sold or given away, or by any other means pass into anyone's undivided ownership (mulk) but will remain for ever as prescribed [in the vakufnama] until God shall remain the sole :ord of the earth and all that is upon it; for He is the best of heirs."

The importance of the tekke can be judged from the fact that the entire residential quarter that took shape around it and extended north-west and eastwards from Bembaša to Baščaršija, was known as the mahala of Isa-beg's zawiyah(4).There is no reference in Isa-beg's vakufnama to the Sufi order to which the zawiyah belonged; this is one of the pieces of evidence to the effect that the endowment was in fact originally a musafirhana.  Further evidence for this is that in the second half of the 18th century a question arose concerning the revenue of the Isa-beg vakuf for the Mevlevi tekke(5) which was later built on this site, alongside Isa-beg's musafirhana(6), prior to 1650 by one Hadži Mahmut(7).This was the tekke described by Evliya Çelebi in 1659(8). The poet Rešid effendi, a native of Sarajevo, wrote a poem on the disaster that befell Sarajevo as a result of Eugene of Savoy's military campaign, dedicating about 40 verses to the Mevlevi tekke describing the tekke building, šadrvan fountain, garden and so on, and also referring to the interior of the building, noting that it was decorated with levhas(9) written in fine calligraphy (Handžić,  1943, pp. 7-12). From then on the building is referred to only as a tekke(10).

The Isa beg tekke and musafirhana were rebuilt on several occasions. Both burned down in the great fire of 1697.  Later – the year is not known - new buildings were erected on their foundations.  The Sarajevo chronicler Mula Mustafa Bašeskija recounts that in 1762 (1196 AH), the Mevlevi tekke was rebuilt.  A transcript of the inscription recording this has survived (M.E.Kadić, p. 70)(11).There is considerable information on the renovation of the tekke in the sidžil (court record) of the Sarajevo kadi (judge), which records that the tekke had long been in a ruinous state and that it was necessary to rebuild it using funds from Isa-beg's vakuf.  During the time of the valija (governor) of Bosnia Vedžihi paša (Mehmet Salih Vecihi Paşa)(12)(1835-1840) thorough repairs were carried out to the musafirhana and tekke buildings.  It was then, too, that a mosque was built alongside them, where Luftulah, son of Osman, was appointed as imam and hatib in 1836 (1252 AH) (Archives of the GH Library Sarajevo, no. 1021).  By 1860 the river Miljacka had swept away the mosque and another building.  In 1878 the Austro-Hungarian authorities temporarily banned the musafirhana, and thus also the tekke, from operating.  The tekke remained in use until 1924, and was maintained from the revenue of vakif (legator) Fadil-paša Šerifović.

The existence of Isa-beg's tekke in Bembaša shaped the further urban development of the area.  A coffee-house was built very close to the tekke, known as Šaban's coffee-house, the position of which (by the wooden bridge) and appearance (terraces on wooden pillars standing in the water) gave the site its distinctive appearance.  In 1888 a Muslim reading-room (Kiraethana) was built upstream from the tekke. Here too was the Ruždija, the Bembaša general school, and on 20 July 1902 the National Baths were opened in Bembaša. 

All subsequent interventions on this site led to its losing its original appearance.  In order to regulate the traffic, in 1941 the government of the NDH issued new plans for the layout of Bembaša, when blueprints were drawn up to demolish Isa-beg's zawiyah, but these were not carried out because of the war.  After World War II the issue arose again, and in 1950 the Executive Committee of the Sarajevo City People's Committee resolved to carry out a new regulatory plan which also covered this area.  The implementation of the plan, and the demolition of the zawiyah, finally began on 23 June 1950, when the procedure for the expropriation of the building and surrounding land was begun. Despite the open dismay of experts and the inhabitants of the city, the zawiyah was demolished in 1957, and its foundations filled with layers of soil in order to regulate and level the terrain.  Some of the graves of leading figures from the zawiyah were left below the piled soil.  There are no details as to whether they were exhumed before work began on the demolition of the complex.  The entire area of the tekke was later also wrecked by the later construction of new features – a petrol station, hotel and parking area.  Unchecked building has resulted in grave damage to the townscape as a whole.


2. Description of the property

Documentation on the appearance of the building and the complex as a whole prior to its demolition in 1957 is kept in the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  This appearance is very different from the description of a large, luxurious building given by Evliya Çelebi and the 17th century Sarajevo poet Rešid-effendi.


The zawiyah complex as surveyed/photographed between 1953 and 1957 consisted of a courtyard with burial ground, courtyard wall, the zawiyah building itself, and a šadrvan fountain and stable(13).

The cobbled courtyard was entered through a double wooden door set in the high courtyard wall.  Bembaša street was at a higher level, and eight stone steps led down from it to compensate for the difference.  The courtyard covered the area between the street and the river Miljacka, acces to which was below the semahana wall(14).The facades of the tekke were open facing the Miljacka, whereas those facing the street and outside world had no windows or doors.  The lower windows of the building were rectangular, with iron bars, and the upper windows terminated in slightly flattened round arches. 

The gradual shift in orientation of the rooms in the zawiyah north-south so as to ensure that the open parts of the building faced the qibla resulted in a simple but unusual layout for the building.  To the east was a rectangular section measuring 11.89 x 7.90 m, with the ground floor consisting of a store room and mejdan odaja(15), and the upper floor of one room and the semahana.  To the west this section led to a small rectangular hajat (porch or antechamber) measuring 4.13 x 7.69 m, and then to a mutvak (kitchen) on the ground floor and divhana (wide corridor) on the first floor, measuring 4.02 x 4.57 m.    The building had a wooden veranda resting on the side walls of the building and on a single oak pillar with corbel set on a stone base.  The upper storey of the veranda had nine wooden pillars supporting the roof frame of the building.  The veranda windows had mušebak (lattice) screens(16).

The bulding had foundations of quarry stone with lime mortar as binder; the walls of the ground and first floors were of unbaked brick reinforced by oak tiebeams.  The entire building was plastered with lime mortar and whitewashed.  The roof frame matched the crooked layout of the building, and the overall impression was rounded off by the differing heights of the roof ridges.  The roof was entirely clad with tiles.

The area to the west of the courtyard of the zawiyah was laid out as a flower garden.   Tall poplars emphasized the picturesqueness of the site, where the gorge opened out westwards and the town had developed.  Until the zawiyah was demolished, the foundations of a šadrvan fountain were visible in this part of the courtyard, and beside them a wooden summer-house.  Here a mosque was built in 1835-1840, only to be destroyed by the flood of 1860 and never rebuilt. There was a small group of six nišan tombstones in the zawiyah courtyard.  The headstones bore the caps of the Sufi Mevlevi order.  Five of the tombstones bore epitaphs recording the names of the shaikhs and dervishes buried there:

  1. Osman-dede, whose tombstone was square in section with a surround of undressed stone.  The numerical value of the letters of the chronostich gives the date  1813/14 (1229 AH)
  2. Muhamed, son of Shaikh Lutfulah, with a headstone nišan of square section, 16 x 16 cm, and 50 cm in height to the turban, with the year of death – 1828/29 (1224 AH),
  3. Hafiz Ibrahim, 1845 (1262 AH),
  4. Shaikh Luftulah, whose tombstone was of miljevina limestone with a surround. The headstone nišan measured 20 x 15 cm in section, with a height of 1.28 m, and was carved with naskhtaliq script.  The year of death is 1860 (1277 AH),
  5. Muhamed Shaikh Fikri, whose headstone nišan, measuring 17 x 17 cm in section, with a height of 95 cm, was carved with an inscription revealing that he died in 1879 (1296 AH)


None of the fixtures and fittings or other items used by the dervishes in the zawiyah has survived.  The zawiyah contained a staff which, tradition recounts, the last Bosnian did (elder of the Bosnian Church) bequeathed to the first shaikh of the Isa-beg zawiyah and which was subsequently handed down from generation to generation until 1924, when the last qualified shaikh, Ruhi effendi, died and the staff disappeared.

The Isa-beg zawiyah in Sarajevo cannot be viewed in isolation from its natural surroundings and the layout of its immediate environs.  At a greater or lesser distance from the zawiyah were Šaban's coffee-house, the wooden bridge linking the area around the zawiyah with the far bank of the river Miljacka, and the area known as Šehova Korija, which was organically linked to the Isa-beg zawiyah.  This was reached by the old Istanbul road that ran along the north slopes of Mt. Trebević from the Vekil Harč mosque via the Alifakovac burial ground and Babića Bašča to Kozija ćuprija bridge.


The Šehova korija complex consisted of: the Mevlevi zawiyah building – sometimes called the summer or Shaikh's  čardak (summer house), and the graves of two dervishes, probably members of the Sufi order.  The nišan tombstones are square in section and very finely worked, terminating in the dervish turban; they are sunken into the ground almost up to turban level. The nišans have no epitaph, and the dervishes buried here probably died before 1662 (Mujezinović, 1966, p. 247) . 

Toponomastic details and surviving tradition are evidence that there were other sites along the road from the Isa-beg zawiyah to Šehova korija that were of particular religious significance for the spiritual life of the local Sufis – the Abu Hayat spring(17), Šehov čair (Shaikh's meadow), and one or more caves serving as ćilehana or cells(18).Very little is known of these caves.  Hadžijahić notes that it was here that the dervishes spent erbein(19) (a forty-day period of retreat, from the Arabic arba'an, forty)(20). Across the way from the cave beneath Šehova korija (across the river Miljacka) was the Orlovača  rock (well known now as a place where mountaineers practice rock climbing).   The part of the rock facing the river Mošćanica bears the indicative name Šehovica.  There is another cave here, sealed off with iron doors and turned into a storage area for the civil defence.  The appearance of the interior is not known (Mulaomerović).

The distinctive features of the natural environment give the ensemble particular significance.  The river Miljacka gorge consists of almost vertical cliffs with caves and hillsides.  There are quantities of indigenous plant species, some occurring nowhere else but in this small area, which has led modern scholars to call it a natural botanical garden.  The slopes are clad with lilac bushes (Syringa vulgaris) mingled with Venetian sumach or smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria), black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), manna ash (Fraxinus ornus), alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula), krušina kamenjarska, trifoliate greenweed (Trigonella foenum graecum), and rare and endemic species: a Sesleria species (local language epithet ujhelova), narrow-leaved wallflower (Cheiranthus sp.) and St John's wort spp. (Hypericaceae), Bosnian stitchwort and others.   As well as these supra-Mediterranean plants there are also occasional communities of steppe grasses: feather grass and vlaska, with dozens of endemic species of grasses and flowering plants alongside them, of which the most interesting are cinquefoil and Potentilla alba (?), orchids such as salep (translator's note: several different species are covered by this name [Orchis mascula (Linn.), O. morio (Linn.), O. militaris (Linn.), O. ustulata (Linn.), O. pyramidalis (Linn.), O. coriophora (Linn.) O. longieruris (Link.). These species, which have the tubers entire, are natives of the greater part of Central and Southern Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus and Asia Minor. The following species, with palmate or lobed tubers, are equally widely distributed: O. maculata (Linn.), O. saccifera (Brong.), O. conopea (Linn.), and O. latifolia (Linn.).]. There is no indication which one of these, if any, is meant here); an orchis known locally as the magnificent orchid (again, no indication of generic or specific name: Trans.), lady's slipper (Cypripedium) and others.  In the forests that grow on the slopes of the Miljacka gorge are some tree species that usually grow at much higher altitudes, among which are particularly valuable communities of grey alder, black hornbeam and narrow-leaved moor grass (Sesleria tenuifolia), downy oak (Quercus pubescens) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea/sessiliflora), white and crack willow, grey willow and others.


3. Legal status to date

The Isa-beg zawiyah is on the Provisional List of National Monuments.  The Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo submitted a petition for the Isa-beg zawiyah, as follows:            

66.  07-6-135/03 Petition 30.1.2003            Isa-beg tekke in Sarajevo

By Ruling of the City Institute for the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Monuments no. 520/76 of 10 December 1976, Bembaša Street was accorded the status of cultural monuments and required to be protected as a spatial and architectural ensemble.  The Ruling noted that all the provisions of the law on the protection of the cultural and historical heritage were applicable to the street itself as well (roadway and pavement), which included the requirement to safeguard the burial walls of the zawiyah and harem.  All the cadastral plots listed in the Ruling, including those of the buildings, were entered in the Land Register of the Municipal Court as cultural monuments of landscape/townscape importance.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

Over the years the zawiyah was frequently repaired, destroyed by fire or flood and each time completely rebuilt.  The years that are most significant in this regard are 1697, when it was destroyed by fire, and 1890, when floods destroyed several buildings, including that of the zawiyah.  The building renovated following this flood survived until 1957, and its appearance was recorded in 1948 and 1955.  Even after it was demolished in 1957, experts continued to be concerned about how to present and protect the site of the Isa-beg zawiyah.  The city's inhabitants responded to their concern by founding an Association for the Reconstruction of the Isa-beg Zawiyah, the aim of which was to rebuild the zawiyah on the same site and in the same form.  Following the formation of the Association, its members began preparatory works.  An expert committee for the reconstruction of the zawiyah was set up in the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, charged with ensuring that the rebuilding project was in line with relevant international best experience and know-how in this field.  The Committee for the reconstruction of the zawiyah ruled that it was both justifiable and necessary to reconstruct the Isa-beg zawiyah.  The criteria that preceded this decision were based on its importance, the way it was demolished, the time at which it was demolished, the existence of documents as a basis for its reconstruction (geodetic surveys, photographs, architectural surveys, records and minutes, eye-witness accounts of local people who remembered what it looked like, etc).  Since the zawiyah had been destroyed or demolished several times, this raised the question of what precise form should be selected for its reconstruction, and the exact site.  The Committee for the reconstruction of the zawiyah resolved, in the light of available documentation, that before deciding on the way it was to be rebuilt and the presentation of the historical complexity of the site as a whole, archaeological excavations should be conducted.  It was proposed that the first excavations should be carried out by the Miljacka bank on the site where, according to available documentation, the zawiyah could have stood.  The subsequent course of the works would be determined on the basis of the archaeological findings.

The decision was taken to begin archaeological excavations based on old geodetic surveys, photographs, the written accounts of eye-witnesses and oral statements by people who remember what the zawiyah last looked like.  On 1 June 1999, test digs began on an area 28 m long, 3 m and 2.10 m wide, and up to 5.46 m deep.  The longitudinal section of the dig revealed five different chronological layers, of which the upper three were part of the old and new roads and contain no significant remains of building or other material that could suggest the expected traces of the zawiyah.  Below these, at a depth of 4.25 m, there appeared a layer of dark brown soil mixed with a quantity of soot, 0.30 to 0.50 in thickness.  Beneath this deposit, in a layer of red soil mixed with river pebbles, the remains of three walls and one small building of rectangular section were discovered at the extreme eastern end of the dig.  Given the size of the dig, it was impossible to ascertain the full length of the walls.  A 15.5 m length of wall running east-west was uncovered, surviving to a maximum height of 1.2m and a total width, with foundations, of 1.1m.  The wall was built of fine-grained limestone with lime mortar binding.  The southern face of the wall was of cut stone, 0.20 m thick, laid in regular courses.  To the north side the stone was roughly cut and widened at the base into a socle.   Two other partly excavated walls of rough-cut stone, 13.5 m apart, ran northwards at right angles to this wall.   At the extreme eastern end of the dig a building was found consisting of four walls of quarry stone blocks, surviving to a height of 1.40 m.  The interior of the building was coated with a layer of lime plaster and measuring 1.0 x 1.30 m.  The archaeological excavations that were carried out were insufficient to lead to any final conclusions on the nature of the buildings of which the walls had been uncovered, nor when they were built.  They clearly did not belong to the last Isa-beg zawiyah building, which was to be expected given the number of times it had been built and demolished.  As a result, it is essential to conduct more extensive archaeological investigations.

The following works were carried out on the Šehova korija site:

July 1999 – September 1999

Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Historical Heritage of Sarajevo

Making good the Šehova (Shaikh’s) cave – The works were carried out in several separate stages:

  • the cave was cleared and a new layer of earth laid to retain the existing level of the entrance area of the cave,
  • a stone wall was added to the entrance to the cave to complete the ambient,
  • a new entrance door was fitted and the cave was locked,
  • the surroundings of the cave were cleared of rubbish and self-sown vegetation.


5. Current condition of the property

The Isa-beg zawiyah was completely demolished in 1957.  Although under legal protection, the spatial ensemble of Bembaša, where the tekke stood, was exposed to constant degradation and destruction even after the zawiyah itself was pulled down. Many buildings were erected without planning permission, among which the petrol station is particularly inappropriate in purpose and form and in the threat it poses to the natural and architectural values of the ensemble.  The road leading to Pale was built over the actual walls of the zawiyah and is completely unjustifiable and dangerous, given that numerous landslips originate here, which could lead to changes to the river Miljacka and the destruction of the landscape and biological distinctiveness of the canyon.  The construction of the Emona and Saraj hotels, certain houses, a restaurant and recreation centre has been extremely damaging to the site.

The site on which the archaeological excavations were conducted and the finds that they uncovered are exposed to bad weather.  Furthermore, as a result of the operations of the dam on the river Miljacka, the test digs have become filled with water.  A further problem is that litter is being thrown into the test digs and that the natural heritage is constantly being degraded by unchecked tree felling and the degradation of the natural rock formations.



Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A. Time frame

B. Historical value

D. Clarity

D.ii. evidence of historical change

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

D. v. evidence of a typical way of life at a specific period

E. Symbolic value

E.i. ontological value

E.ii. religious value

E.iii. traditional value

E.iv. relation to rituals or ceremonies

E.v. significance for the identity of a group of people

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.i.  Relation to other elements of the site

F.iii.  the building or group of buildings is part of a group or site


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-     Copy of cadastral plan

-     Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-     Photodocumentation;

-     Site plan



During the procedure to designate the Isa-beg zawiyah at  Bembaša as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted:


1927.    Sikirić, Šakir, Sarajevske tekije (Tekkes of Sarajevo), Narodne starine, Zagreb, 1927, vol.14, bk. 1, pp. 77-79


1937.    Skarić, VIadimir. Sarajevo i njegova okolina od najstarijlh vremena do austro-ugarske okupacije (Sarajevo and environs from earliest times to the Austro-Hungarian Occupation), Sarajevo, 1937, p. 38


1951.    Šabanović, Hazim Najstarije vakufname u Bosni i Hercegovine (The Oldest Vakufnamas in BiH), Contributions to oriental philology, bks. 2-3, Sarajevo,1951


1966.    Mujezinović, Mehmed, Musafirhana i tekija Isa-bega Ishakovića u Sarajevu (The Musafirhana and tekke of Isa-beg Ishaković in Sarajevo), Naše starine, III, Sarajevo, 1966, pp. 246-247;


1967.    Ćelebi, Evlija, Putopis (Travelogue), Sarajevo 1967.


1967.    Selimović, Meša, Derviš i smrt (The Dervish and Death), Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1967


1973.    Bejtić, Alija, Ulice i trgovi Sarajeva (Streets and Squares of Sarajevo) Sarajevo, 1973, p. 27,


1974.    Mujezinović, Mehmed, Islamska epigrafika BiH (Islamic Epigraphics of BiH), bk I, Sarajevo 1974. p. 24,


1981     Hadžijahić, M. , Još jedno bogumilsko-islamsko kultno mjesto (Yet Another Bogumil-Islamic Religious Site), Herald of the Supreme Islamic Council, 3/81, Sarajevo, 1981, p. 270


1984.    Šamić, Jasna Šamić, Hasan Kaimi-baba - život i djelo (Hasan Kaimi-baba – his life and work), Programme 3 Radio-Sarajevo, 1984, no. 47, pp. 409-436.


1986.    Ćehajić, Džemal, Derviški redovi u jugoslovenskim zemljama (Sufi Orders in Yugoslav Lands), Sarajevo, 1986, pp. 36-37


1999.    Gavrilović, Margita, Izvještaj o rezultatima arheoloških istraživanja na lokalitetu Isa-begova tekija u Sarajevu (Report on findings of archaeological investigations on the site of the Isa-beg tekke in Sarajevo), July 1999.


1999.    Elaborat o rezultatima arheoloških istraživanja na lokalitetu Isa-begova tekija u Sarajevu (Study on the findings of archaelogical investigations on the site of the Isa-beg tekke in Sarajevo), Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, July 1999


2000     Mulaomerović, Jasminko, «Sveta mjesta za osamljivanje» (Sacred Sites for Retreats), Znakovi vremena no. 7-8. Cultural Tradition, Winter 2000


2002     Maglajlić, Munib, «Pjevač i pripovjedač Hamdija Šahinpašić» (The Singer and Narrator Hamdija Šahinpašić), Znakovi vremena no. 15. Cultural Tradition, Spring 2002


2002     Ćeman, Mirza, Hasan, Projekat arheoloških istraživanja Isa-begove zavije na Bembaši u Sarajevu (Project for archaeological investigations of the Isa-beg zawiyah at Bembaša), December 2002.


2002     Omerdić,ef. Muharem, Derviši i tekije Sarajeva (Dervishes and tekkes of Sarajevo), Contributions to the history of Sarajevo


(1) Over the past 500 years three Mevlevi, two Bektashi, one Rufaiyyah, four Qadiriyyah, ten Khalwatiyyah and fourteen Naqshbandiyyah tekkes have been built.  There were three Havaiyyah haniqahs and one Naqshbandiyya.  Sarajevo had the most tekkes – eleven, with two haniqahs (Gazi Husrev beg’s and Bistrigi or Skender Pasha’s), followed by Travnik three (one haniqah), Mostar two (one haniqah), Foča two, Visoko two, Konjic two, and one each in Prusac, Fojnica, Seonica near Konjic, Višegrad, Rudo, Bijeljina and Donja Tuzla

(2)  The Ishaković family makes its appearance on the stage of history in the early 15th century.  Ishak-beg, son of Pašait-beg, followed his father as vojvoda (military leader) of the Western Reaches in 1414, remaining there until 1439 (he died in 1442).  His son Eseb-Alija is also referred to as vojvoda at this time.  Another of Ishak-beg's sons, vojvoda Barak, is referred to in documents dating from 1435 and 1436, when he represented him in the post of commanding officer of the Western Reaches.  His third son, Isa beg Ishaković, was appointed as vojvoda of the Western Reaches in 1440, holding the post until 1463.  In 1464 he became sandžak-beg of Bosnia, a post he held until 1470.  Among the numerous documents in the Dubrovnik archives relating to Isa-beg Ishaković, two are of particular importance.  The first relates to a possible visit by him to Dubrovnik, and is dated 16 August 1452.   This was the first time his full name, with that of his father and his family name, was recorded by the Dubrovnik authorities: Isabech Isachovich Cranusich. The second document dates from 1 February 1454; in it vojvoda Isa-beg issued a document in Skoplje where he requests that Counts Hamza and Dubroslav help and protect Frank when he visits the Pavlović's or Herceg's lands for trading purposes.  The last reference to Isa-beg in documentary sources dates from 8 February 1470.  His date of death is unknown, as is his place of burial.  Behind the mihrab in the harem of the Careva mosque in Sarajevo is an undated nišan tombstone of large size which local tradition associates with Isa-beg (Mujezinović, 1974 p. 24).

(3)  This document notes that Isa-beg's endowment consists of three houses, a stable, a walled courtyard and other necessary things. According to the deed of endowment these buildings were used as a hostel and tekke for poor Muslims, students, sayyids, warriors, and chance travellers passing by.  Food was cooked and distributed at no charge to travellers and the employees of the hostel, and the surplus was distributed to the poor children of Sarajevo. Visitors had the right to three days' board only. A transcript of this vakufnama is to be found in the sidžil (court records) of the Sarajevo kadija (judge) for 1838 (1254 AH) in the Gazihusrefbeg library, no. 77, pp. 51-52, and a translation in Supplements II, Sarajevo 1951, pp. 7-29. The original vakufnama was in the hands of Mustaj-beg Fadilpašić, but after he lent it to Kosta Hofman, it was lost without trace. All that have survived are a number of transcripts, which H. Šabanović regards as incorrect, and that the best is the version in the sidžil of the Sarajevo kadija.

(4)  In 1526, Mustafa Muslihudin Čekrekčija built a mosque in this mahala, and the name of the mahala was altered to Čekrekčija's mahala (Kreševljaković, 1938, pp. 26 and 34). The first census of this mahala, dating from 1515, reveals that it had 31 [family] households, 21 bachelor households and 2 widows' households.

(5) The dervishes of the Mevlevi order were very learned, and constituted the elite among Sufis (Mujezinović, p. 246). They served all over the Ottoman Empire.  Among the best known of them are Servi (a poet writing in the Turkish language), Habib-dede el-Bosnewi or Habibi (who composed poems in couplets), Derviš  Mustafa Katibi (who composed many poems in Turkish), and Derviš Sulejman Mezaki.

(6)  In his Chronicle, Mula Mustafa Bašeskija records that in 1780 (1191 AH), the Mevlevi shaikh Osman-dede came from Istanbul to Sarajevo, bringing with him a document on the basis of which he would «set up and discover» Isa-beg's vakuf.  Bašeskija says that he personally looked through Isa-beg's vakufnama and that he found no reference to a tekke, whether Qadiriyyah, Mevlevi or other.  Indeed, it was not rebuilt that year, but only two years later (Mujezinović, p. 246.)

(7)  Died 1650 (1060 AH).  His nišan tombstone, which is in the burial ground by the Sinan tekke, has an epitaph recording that he built a Mevlevi tekke (Mujezinović, p. 246.)

(8)  On the bank of the river Miljacka,on a site that is like paradise, is the vakuf tekke of Jalaluddin Rumi [founder of the Mevlevi order]. The tekke has a simahana [room where Sufi worship is performed], a mejdan odaja [where the dervishes meet for discussions after ritual worship], seventy to eighty small rooms for the poor and needy, a mahvil for mutribe [balcony for singers and musicians], an imaret [kitchen] and a refectory. The shaikh of this tekke is a learned man.

(9)  Every detail in a tekke has its own precisely defined symbolism.  Weapons on the walls are a sign that the struggle with one's own self is the supreme choice.  It is also essential to have a levha calling on one to take care with one's behaviour, and the sabres hung on the wall around it mean that one should devote one’s entire being to this struggle.   The bow and arrows hung on the walls call on one to be cautious in life and to have a care for the passage of time and the proximity of death, for time can never be recaptured anymore than a loosed arrow.   Another invariable feature is a staff, which is powerfully symbolic in Islam and denotes that it takes support from a tradition that has been handed down over the centuries

(10) According to a census of the Islamic Community in 1930 Sarajevo had the following tekkes in addition to that of Isa-beg:

  • Skender-paša’s tekke, of the Khalwatiyyah-Naqshbandiyyah order, built around 1500 on the left bank of the Miljacka
  • Hadim Ali-paša’s or Gazilerska tekke, of the Qadiriyyah order, on the side of the present-day Public Health Institute.  It acquired the name "gazilerska" from the fact that it was on a road known as "Gaziler yolu" (the gazi’s road). This tekke is believed to have been one of the oldest in Sarajevo
  • Silahdi Mustafa-paša - Hadži Sinan’s tekke in the mahala of Bali efendije by the Sarač Alija mosque.
  • Bistrigi’s tekke – haniqah, founded by Ibrahim Bistrigi, a famous shaikh of the Khalwatiyyah order
  • Kaimi-baba’s tekke, in the form of his family house, which he endowed as a tekke.  This was below the Ćumurija bridge on the right bank of the Miljacka.  It was first destroyed by fire in 1677, was rebuilt by the Sarajevo kadi Zihnija in 1762, and was totally burned down in 1879
  • Jedilerska tekke, of the Naqshbandiyyah order, founded in 1879 by Sejfullah Iblizović and which gradually took shape.  Initially it was just premises for the guardian of the Turbe of the Seven Brothers.  It remained in existence until 1937, when it was demolished and the residential building of the Čokadži vakuf in Bistrik was built on the site
  • Naqshbandiyyah tekke in Mlini, in which dhikr was performed according to the Mevlevi usul,
  • Fadil-paša’s tekke in Donja (Lower) Vogošća, founded by the famous divan poet and Sufi Fadil-paša Šerifizade (Šerifović)
  • Turnadeda’s tekke by the Čekrčina mosque, and
  • Gazi-Husrev-beg’s haniqah.

(11) In translation, the inscription reads:

«This building was erected for dervishes,

As a place of prayer to the Creator of the worlds.

(This) Mevlevi place of worship became a vakuf,

May it ever be dedicated to congregations of worshippers,

Razi composed the chronogram (recording its) construction:

«(This is) a place for dervishes, the home of those who are on the path of God»


(12) Muhamed Salih Vedžihi paša built a mosque in Bijeljina in 1836/37 (1252 AH) and in Bužim fort.

(13) Meša Selimović described the tekke in his novel The Dervish and Death:

The tekke, pleasant and spacious, overlooks a river that makes its way down from the mountains and through the rocks of the gorge.  There is a garden, a plot for roses, and a veranda covered by an arbour.  Upstairs there is also a long porch where the silence is a soft as cotton, and seems all the more silent because of the soft gurgling of the river below. . . Thick wooden lattices over the windows and a massive wall around the garden made our seclusion more impenetrable and secure.  But the gate was always open, so that those who needed comfort or purification from sin could enter.  We received them with kind words, although our words were scantier than their troubles, scantier still than their sins ljude lijepom riječju kad su dolazili, iako ih je bilo manje nego nevolja i mnogo manje nego grijehova.

(14) A semahana is a room where a specific form of Sufi worship, the dhikr (literally, remembrance) is performed

(15) A mejdan odaja is a room for discussions, study and fine-tuning opinions

(16) The veranda was covered by a vine, the so-called Mevlevi grape

(17) abu hayat: water of life, spring of immortality – this is the name of a plateau on a hillock near the Miljacka, close to Kozja ćuprija (Goat Bridge), not far from Sarajevo (Maglajlić, M., 2002.)

(18) Ćilehana or cells are places used for the shaikh to go into retreat to meditate. Their main feature is that they are always separate from the zawiyah building. They depend in character on the geographical region, climate, culture of the country etc. Caves could also be used for this purpose, as in this case.

(19) M. Hj. (Hadžijahić), “Yet another Bogomil-Islamic Religious  Site“, Herald of the Supreme Islamic Council, 3/81, Sarajevo, 1981, p. 270.

(20) The shaikh sends his murids (”novices”) to the cell for forty days solitary retreat.  Forty is the numerical value of the Arabic word al-maut ("death"), and also the age in years of human maturity.  Thus death, expressed as the number 40, is also the achievement of perfection or rebirth.  Other individuals with miraculous powers, the shamans for instance, also went into solitary retreat, or were left alone in a yurt, which is cave-shaped, during their initiation (as with the Siberian Yakuts).  See Mircea Eliade, Histoire des croyance et des idées religieuses, 1976 (trans. as A History of Religious Ideas by Willard R Trask), p. no. not known (local language translation Istorija vjerovanja i religijskih ideja, III, Belgrade, 1991, p. 19)

Isa-bey tekkeIsa-bey tekke, photo taken before 1957Tekke and wooden summer-houseSite of the Tekke in 2005
Site of the tekke, an old pictureOld postcard of Sarajevo with tekkeThe surroundings of Isa-bey tekkeThe site of Šehova Korija
View from the Šehova Korija ta White tabijaThe surroundings of Šehova Korija - Eagle rock Šehova Korija - two dervishes' nišan tombstonesŠehova Korija - cave
Abu Hayat spring   

BiH jezici 
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