Sinan’s Moldovan Military Masterpiece

It was on this day in 1489 a boy called ‘Joseph’ was born to a Christian family in the heart of Anatolia (Turkey). He would grow up to change the face of Europe forever, not as a Christian though, but as the greatest Muslim architect the world has ever seen.

Ko’ca Mimar Sinan Aga – to give him his Muslim name – was a soldier for two decades in the Ottoman empire’s military, before becoming its master architect for over fifty years.

Long hailed the pinnacle of Ottoman architectural style, Sinan’s work is celebrated across Turkey. However, many of his – some say 500 – works, have either been destroyed or remain forgotten in former Ottoman territories.

The Bender Fortress in tiny Moldova is one of those.

click for pictures and the full story

Five Islamic secrets of the Americas

The Islamic heritage of the Americas is largely ignored.

Besides some speculation about pre-Columbus Muslim explorers, the odd discussion on slaves from Islamic African nations, and infrequent write-ups concerning the impact of recent Muslim migrants, the topic remains at best, ill explored.

The following are five fascinating Islamic secrets about the Americas that make it clear just how much work is yet to be done, as well as offering some tantalising possibilities …

click for all five secrets and the pictures

The Baltic Islamic trail

Islam in the Baltic has a surprisingly long history. There is evidence of Muslim travellers and geographers appearing in the area as early as the tenth century. However beyond the odd adventure or mapping exercise, the Baltic held little interest for them.

The first real Muslim community is established in the 14th century in southern Lithuania, east Poland and Belarus, when Muslim Tatars from the Crimea were brought over by Lithuania’s Duke Vytautas to help with fighting the intolerant Christian Teutonic Knights. These Tatars were invited to stay and have been resident here for over 600 years now.Keturiasdesimt Totoriu villagers

This trail maps the region’s entire Muslim history, one country at a time. It identifies all  the places to connect with the three Baltic states’ fascinating Islamic culture, concluding in sleepy Lithuanian villages still home to what might just be Europe’s oldest surviving Muslim community.

Follow the entire trail through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

The Christian boy who ruled the Muslim world

“Go to Mangalia, which is the Kaaba Mecca of the wandering poor people!”

I had expected many things from the little Esmahan Sultan Mosque in Mangalia, south east Romania, but a comparison to Islam’s holiest city was not one of them.

Esmahan

“The Esmahan Sultan Mosque was built in 1573 … in memory of Solyman II, one of the greatest rulers of the Ottoman Empire of that time…” the sign continued.

Read on to learn the amazing story behind the mosque

From popular Indo-Muslim game to Baltic obsession; the story of Novuss

Novuss is the national game of Latvia; Koroona is the national game of Estonia – same game, two names. That’s not the only unusual thing about this ‘gaming double agent’, royal Indian ancestry has been mentioned too. Guest writer, Geoff Chester explains …

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, in British-ruled India, a game played on a big wooden board using small round pieces, like those found in Draughts, became extremely popular in the royal courts of the Maharajahs.

The game, known as Carrom, used a large round ‘strike’ to push smaller ‘ghutis’ into four ‘pockets’; one in each corner of the square board. How Carrom was invented or by whom remains unclear, but its simplicity and potential for hours of fun, meant it eventually left the palaces to enter mainstream life. Soon it was being played in villages and towns up and down the Subcontinent to become one of the region’s most popular games. 

Village playersCarrom remains a favourite pastime in India today, and even more so in Bangladesh and Pakistan – the two Muslim majority countries carved out of British India. The game’s popularity is now crossing international borders too, with tournaments held all over the world.

Read on to learn how Carrom makes it to the Baltic!

Lithuania’s Forgotten Love Minaret

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never find it.

The old dirt path that crosses the railway tracks leads only to a blue tourist sign that says “50m” and points left towards what seem to be just a load of trees. There are no other clues that anything is here. 

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Passengers stand on the platform at Kedainiai train station oblivious to it; the overgrown woodland, neglected for decades, blocking their view.

“It was built by a general as a mosque for his beloved wife. She was Muslim and he wanted her to have somewhere to pray, so he built this with a mosque underneath for her to pray in,” explained Edward Shevchenko, holding the hand of his own wife, Victoria.

Read on to learn the minaret’s full story

Top five places to connect with Europe’s Muslim Heritage

As interest in the Muslim heritage of Europe grows, more and more of us are looking for places to connect with the continent’s Islamic past (and present).

This list handpicks the five ideal destinations to do just that. Each entry has been included for its historical significance as well as its ability to offer the visitor something special. They come with a simple and practical explanation of why you would go, where you should go and how to get there.

So whether you want to chase Ottoman Draculas, forgotten Balkan Sufi shrines or Moorish maidens, step right this way …

Click to read about all five recommendations

10 ways to be a Mipster (Muslim hipster) in Shoreditch

Cool people don’t go to Shoreditch in London’s east end. It’s where they’re from.

Atmosphere of Lane (3)

Like sewing the last badge onto a pair of swim trunks of hipness or earning the final black belt in ‘trend’ martial arts, you’re only ‘cool’ if you’ve hung out in east London.

But Shoreditch isn’t just a hipster haven, it’s also home to one of the largest Muslim communities in London, Sylhetti Bangladeshis, who have been living here since the 1970s. Before that Shoreditch was home to Sephardic Jews and French Huguenots.

Keep on reading to learn how to keep it cool and halal

Remembering Al-Gharb Al Andalus; Portugal’s Muslim past … and present

“I was taught nothing about Muslim Portugal in school. It was simply never mentioned.”

Irina Lopes is a Lisbonian, from the city once known as Al-Ishbun, but Irina doesn’t know this.

“Until I spoke to you I didn’t know Portugal had this amazing Islamic history. I knew nothing about it and none of my friends have ever said anything of our Islamic history.”

Read all about Portugal’s Muslim heritage

The real European Renaissance: A photographic ode to Al-Andalus

On April 27, 711AD Tariq Ibn Ziyad, General for Caliph Al-Walid I, head of the Muslim Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, Syria, landed with his troops on a huge rock that can still be seen from the coast of Morocco today.

That rock is now known as Gibraltar, a Latinisation of ‘Jebel-al-Tariq’ to mean the ‘mount of Tariq’. The rock was named after the general whose arrival signalled the beginning of a European Muslim presence that lasted 700 years and founded, arguably the most advanced intellectual culture the Western world had ever seen – paving the way for the later European Renaissance, enlightenment and modern western society.

Click for my pictures and non-Muslim words that confirm this

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