Sarajevo Farewell and Isa-begov Hamam

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Getaroom India

I spent my last day in Sarajevo walking around enjoying the beautiful city. Late afternoon I had a hamam at Isa Beg Hamam Hotel in the Bistrik neighborhood. The process was invigorating but a little different from Turkish hamams.

Isa Begov Hamam Entrance to Stone Sitting Area

Isa Beg Hamam Process

The hamam had a large Jacuzzi and steam room divided by a warm stone sitting area. Before the bath process began, I loosened up by going back and forth between the Jacuzzi and steam room. There was no göbek taşı – a central, raised marble platform above the heating source or “kurna stone”. Laying on the göbek taşı is the first step in most Turkish hamams. It’s meditative and special, especially if you’re looking up at a beautiful dome.

Jacuzzi Isa Begov Hamam – Destination Sarajevo

The thorough bath process included four different washings, scrubbings, and exfoliation. At the end I was literally squeaky clean! After the scrubbing I had an aromatherapy massage with rosemary and rose oil.

Steam Room Isa Begov Hamam Hotel –

Hamam has been the “meaning of clean” through history. The old Arabic word means the “spreader of warmth” and dates back to ancient Rome.

Isa-begov Hamam Sarajevo –

Isa-beg Ishakovic –


The main idea of the hamam is “using steam and hot water to cleanse and relax the body”.


Old Town Flags Bosnian Independence Day March 1

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Depending on the culture, hamams have different structures. Earlier blog posts describe the Turkish bath process I experienced in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Pomegranate Juice Stand

Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević

Hamams consist of three parts. The first step is heating your body and relaxing. The second part is opening your pores and sweating. After these steps, the “tellak” (masseuse) massages and washes you vigorously with a traditional olive paste soap and thin cloth. Bowls of water poured over the body wash away the dead skin cells.

Mostar Bridge

Jajce Waterfall

The next step is an “intensive scrubbing with a rough mitten called a kese” followed by another extensive rinse with alternating hot and cold water. My tellak was a Bosnian woman who spoke little English but enough to tell me she had a degree in physical therapy, a common occupation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – Wikimedia Commons

The whole process lasted 3 hours leaving me rejuvenated but feeling like rubber. The cost, including a 60-minute massage, was $50.

Travnik Bridge

History Isa Beg Hamam

Isa Beg Hamam is Sarajevo’s first and oldest bath. It has over 500 years of history and was an old Waqf building donated by Isa-beg Ishakovic. His family came from Saruhan in western Turkey. In the first half of the 15th century the Ishakovic family “played a significant role in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia”.

Abandoned Building Near Isa Beg Hamam Hotel

Sarajevo City Hall Vijećnica – Sarajevo Times

Isa-beg Ishakovic built the Sarajevo hamam in 1462 during the era of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The building is of “great importance and symbolizes the transition between the rule of the Bosnian Kingdom and Ottoman Empire”.

Kriva Ćuprija Bridge Mostar

Lašva River Travnik

Isa-beg Ishakovic

Isa-beg Ishakovic – known as the “founder of Sarajevo” – was a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosna Sandzak. He’s credited with Sarajevo’s urbanization and creating many “magnificent buildings”.

Orthodox Congregational Church of the Holy Mother Old Town Sarajevo

Mt. Trebević Balkan Vista

Isa Beg Hamam is next to Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque which Ishakovic founded and gifted to the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Mosque and hamam were built at the same time.

Careva Mosque Bistrik Sarajevo

Old Town Clock Tower and Mosque

Damage During the War

The Hamam suffered serious damage during the war 1992-1995. After renovation by architect Ferhad Mulabegovic it became the Isa Begov Hamam Boutique Hotel. The hotel is protected and preserved as an important cultural heritage icon.

Modern Art Sarajevo

I’ll miss Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo – a special place! Photo memories are attached. More later from Belgrade Serbia.

Old Town Building

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Topkapi Palace Istanbul

Chamber Sacred Relics

During a previous visit to Istanbul I slighted Topkapi Palace, but made up for it by spending the better part of a day exploring the massive complex. The palace chambers are as entertaining to see as views of the Golden Horn are difficult to describe! Musical compositions have been written to praise the beauty of Topkapi Palace and its extraordinary views of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.

Theodosian Wall of Constantinople

It rained late in the afternoon, and I got soaked. While it was raining hard, a Turkish man let me share his umbrella to walk between pavilions. I haven’t learned to read Istanbul clouds, but clearly the ones yesterday meant business. The blustery weather created dramatic skies and a great backdrop for Istanbul’s famous skyline.

Bosphorous from Topkapi

Topkapi History and Ottoman Sultans

Construction of the Topkapi Palace complex completed in 1478. The complex sits at the tip of the peninsula between the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.

“For almost four hundred years, from the time of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror until the thirtieth Sultan Abdulmecid, Topkapi Palace was the residence, administrative, educational, and art center of the Ottoman Dynasty.” In the mid 19th century, the Ottomans moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace, but Topkapi preserved its importance in Turkish history.

“The Ottoman dynasty ruled the Ottoman Empire from c. 1299 to 1922. During the Empire’s history, the sultan was the absolute regent and head of state. At times power shifted to other officials such as the Grand Vizier, the Prime Minister.”

Abdulmecid I

Sultan Othman Khan I

Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror

After the Republic of Turkey formed in 1924, Topkapı Palace became a museum. The first museum of the Turkish Republic and one of the biggest palace-museums of the world, Topkapi Museum covers about 300,000 square meters (3,229,173 sq. ft.). It includes Turkish baths, mosques, schools, and a hospital! The complex has a Roman Wall – known as the Theodosian Wall of Constantinople – separating it from the city.

Topkapi Grounds

An array of gardens, chambers, courtyards, pavilions, architecture, and collections surround Topkapi Palace, including:

  • Hagia Irini Church
  • Alay Square – first palace courtyard
  • Justice Square – place for the state administration meetings
  • Gate of Felicity – entrance into the Sultan’s private quarters
  • Chamber of Treasury
  • Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Relics
  • Tower of Justice
  • Inner court – wards and structures belonging to the Palace School

The interiors of some of the rooms and mansions in the palace complex are exquisite examples of the “classical mosque architecture of Ottoman art”!

  • Marble Sofa
  • Sofa Mosque and Pavilion
  • Chamber of Sacred Relics
  • Baghdad Pavilion
  • Revan Pavilion
  • Mecidiye Mansion and Esvab Chamber – last buildings constructed

I had a map and audio guide – but it was still confusing following everything.  The Portleri Section with Sultan portraits was one of my favorites. The ornate domes throughout the complex were fascinating. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Culture and Tourism Minister Nabi Avci, recently welcomed a new oil painting depicting the fascinating Osmans.