Minarets in the Mountains by Tharik Hussain

4 out of 5 stars

Thanks to the rise of the political right-wing, Muslim Europe is being pushed as a threat to our way of life in Europe and the UK. But if you go back far enough, in corners of the continent, you will find that there are communities of Muslims who have been have been living peacefully alongside Christians, Jews and pagans for centuries. They are as much a part of our history as anyone else.

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.

Between him and his wife, they planned a route taking guidance from the route that the Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi took across the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s.  It feels really up to date, too. There is a lot of history in here, a particular fascination of Hussain’s, but there is much more detail about the towns that they stay in and the people that they meet during their travels.

I liked this book about a part of Europe and its history that I knew almost nothing about. Hussain is an engaging writer who has an open mind with regard to the people that he meets on his journey in the region. The other thing that worked for me in this book is that he is travelling with his family which is a very different context compared to the usual travel books where you have a lone writer and their take on a place. Well worth reading if you want a very different perspective on the history of Europe.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Oh this does sound a good one – yes, travelling with family will give a different viewpoint and an interesting one. I knew a Muslim guy from former Yugoslavia over here for a while, a really nice man but with terrible shadows in his past. I often wonder how he got on after we lost touch.

    • Paul

      Especially as most travel is solo, so you don’t get that extra dimension from a partner or children and getting that balance right

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