Bashir Wagih, a travel adventure and beauty & fashion photographer. During my travels in Senegal I met a Sufi follower of the By Fals, who coincidentally had dreadlocks as a trademark of their following. He gave me a crystal clear piece of advice that took me years to realize
“One should have 3 hobbies, one to make them end’s meet, one to keep them healthy and one to keep them creative”
So an adventure travel and fashion photographer made even more sense.
Here is his Diary
Travel Junkie Diary
Bashir Wagih – A Diary in Bosnia
By Bashir Wagih
I was recently commissioned for a shoot in Bosnia & Herzegovina following a war time journalist as he reminisces about his time during the siege of Sarajevo. As a photographer I’m inclined to view things in an angle of different dimensions, so sparing you any gruesome details of the war, here is my own personal account of my trip there.
Hotel Hotel Europe
The hotel was on the edge of the old Ottoman built area called Barscarsija (pronounced ‘barsha’), an array of cobble laid streets with only pedestrian traffic allowed, also known as old town.
Stepping into the area was like walking into a time portal. All the architecture of the old style was intact with the area populated with cafe’s, bars, clubs and restaurants. The night life is quite diverse with places themed to any genre of food or music you can think of.
The area although small is littered with historic monuments, with each stone boasting a story all it’s own. One of the most intriguing was a ‘sabeel’ or free water tap in the street which was legend to bind whoever drank from it to the place ensuring they come back again. Needless to say I drank from it everyday.
The effects of the siege were inescapable visually yet there was always a sense of peace vibrating from each stone. Like the eternal flame monument built atop a gas line that was bombed during the fighting. This was the only source of heat for many people as electricity was scarce during the time. It was also in the open so it was a choice of freezing or being a likely target. It is now a memorial with it’s flame always ablaze tapping into the gas line representing the people’s eternal spirit that never went out.
Traveling around the city was quite easy using the tram (the first electric tram in Europe), buses and taxis. The aesthetic Ottoman architecture, Gothic precise details and harsh communist structures meshed harmoniously in the skyline of the city.
I was walking along a bridge headed to the historic city hall and library when one of my guides stopped me and said “WAIT!…. right there….. take a step to your left, two steps back…. yes just there. That is the exact spot where the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated triggering the first world war”. As I stood there with all the history I’ve learned flashing through my mind, I could feel the soul of the place surge through me. In this very spot less than 100 years go, a split second was the catalyst to ending 17 million lives.
With that kind of back history, you would think this gorgeous city would have had enough, but the fates had more turmoil planned for it. As you pass many large clear areas, you find them housing hundreds of tombstones. Tombstones all displaying an expiration date within a 3 year range. From 1992-1995. As if a meteor had hit or a volcano had erupted. A mass extinction event. Every friday you can find these areas crowded with people paying their respects and visiting their loved ones. Yet they all do it with a smile of remembrance and gratitude. For those who laid their lives live on through the spirit of this city’s charm and hospitality.
I was infatuated with their local dish of Burek, a meat pie made sometimes with cheese or broccoli. It was a light, tantalizing dish that would give me energy for the entire day. That’s not to say that they don’t also specialize in turkish sweets. All in all they do love to cook and you can definitely feel that love with every bite.
We took a 2 hour trip to Mustar (meaning bridge in Bosnian). A small town encompassing a river where their monument is, you guessed it, a bridge. A world heritage site bridge in fact. This bridge was demolished during the war toppling it’s stones into the river below. The locals rebuilt it using those exact same stones themselves in a mere 4 years showing the resolution and robustness of their will to the world. No words can describe the enchantment of this place as it seems like a setting from a fantasy film. There I met a young girl working at a souvenir and trinket shop who sold me my awesome pocket watch. She lived in a farm close by and was working there to put herself through college to be a mechanical engineer. She loved motorcycles and as she put it, “hearing the roar of a harley davidson, the mountain wind blowing in my face and soaking in the beauty of my country…. what else would one wish for?”
Back in Sarajevo I met up with a friend of my camera man who took us bar hopping for the night. 6 bars and 2 monkey brains (an awesomely disgusting cocktail) later we settled down in a cafe where we took the time to talk. I took no precautions and asked her about her experience with the war, and her story is one I now preach to anyone who thinks life is too hard now. She was 2 when the war broke out so she doesn’t remember how life was before that.
“I remember when I was 4, we were evacuating a bunker at night and running through an air raid. I was lagging behind while my mom was pulling me along. A man who was leading us through “safe streets” grabbed her hand and told her to leave me since I was delaying the whole group. I sunk my teeth into his hand to let go of my mother, my protection, my wall. That was the first time I saw blood…. and not my last”
The first time she ever saw the sun was at age 6. “I had always heard stories about it but it’s energy could never be described. I stood there for a long time trying to understand what I’m feeling. Like a deaf person hearing for the first time”
This woman is now a celebrated radio and tv host who also works at an NGO that facilitates medical surgeries for those who cannot afford it with collaborations with niece and Vienna.
She is but one of many examples of those who rebuilt their lives in this vibrant pulsating country.
As a great man once said “absolute power in the hand of a tyrant can never harm those with absolute will in their hearts”
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