The Only Mosque in Sofia

I timidly approached the front entrance and looked around. A small garden was to my left and there wasn’t another person in sight. It was starting to get dark and I had the uneasy feeling that I was somewhere I shouldn’t be.

This was the first time I had ever seen a mosque, let alone walked inside of one.

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I gathered some courage and as soon as I opened the door, a boy appeared. He seemed surprised, but happy to see us and motioned for us to come in. He handed me a bright green hooded robe that I was to put on and pointed to our shoes. We took them off and walked through a small door to reach the chapel.  As I stepped onto the richly carpeted red floor, I began to stare at the millions of turquoise colored tiles that covered the walls. Intricate patterns, flower motifs, calligraphy… I was awe-struck by all of it.

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My eyes eventually wandered to the ceiling and a large painted doom emerged over our heads. The earthy colors and larger designs on the ceiling complimented the bright tiles so beautifully.

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While the visual beauty of this mosque is inspiring, the realization I had was even more so. Inside this little Mosque I realized for the first time that life is about experiences. Travel is about experiences. It is one thing to visit a place, see it’s outer beauty, take some photos and be on your way. It is another thing entirely to experience it, feel it, and try to understand it.

I have since visited many more mosques, but this is the one I will always remember most. Maybe it’s because it was the first, or maybe because it was an unexpected surprise.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad I opened that door and walked into the Banya-Bashi Mosque.

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The Banya-Bashi mosque is the only active Mosque in Sofia, a city that once had more than 50 during Ottoman control.  It was built in 1576 and was named after the thermal bath complex that once surrounded it.

What do you think? Have you ever had a similar experience while traveling?

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