Robin's Website


Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the cultural capital of Herzegovina. It is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country.

It is probably most famous for The 'Old' Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century.  The bridge is considered one of the most important examples of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. The city itself was named after the bridge keepers who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the river. The Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The photos here are from a visit I made to the city in the early 00's and importantly, as can be clearly seen, the famous bridge is not there; adjacent to its site is a temporary footbridge of modern construction. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat–Bosniak War.  The World Bank, UNESCO, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund formed a coalition to oversee the reconstruction of the old bridge and also the historic city centre. During my visit to the city, shown here, reconstruction of the bridge is in its infancy.  A project, as shown on the signs photographed, was set in motion to rebuild it. The result today is a carefully constructed replica, opened on 23 July 2004, a few years after my visit.

The photos give an insight into the war damage, fought intensely between both sides each on opposing banks of the river. It was on a poignant note that during the visit, I saw many males younger and many older than myself with an apparent demographical gap of men my age. The outskirts of the city had a large number of cemetery plots adorned with fresh flowers. One of the locals commented that gone are the traditional industries and all that appears to be happening now is new cafes popping up for tourists, like myself.

Perhaps one day I might visit the city again to see the reconstructed bridge and historic centre...

Mostar Revisited (2016)

... The following part of this webpage forms an addendum. Whereas on my previous visit there was no old bridge to be seen, I returned in 2016 to see this reconstructed attraction for which the old city is famous for.

As well as the bridge back to its former glory, one thing that did stand out was the change in tourist numbers. Along with this, as one would expect, the number of souvenir stalls had increased many times over. So much, in fact, the old town felt more like one large market stall - a bazaar almost. I felt this had somewhat taken away some of the old town charm and soon discovered, the only way to appreciate the architecture of some of the old buildings was to look up to the first (second in American English) floors and try to imagine what the buildings may look like at ground level minus the plethora of racks stuffed with postcards and souvenirs. A minor disappointment, but one far outweighed by the joy to see a city which had come back to life.

Above: Composite Image (2016)

The following text gives more information about the old bridge and is followed by a thumbnail gallery showing my photos from this second visit. The old bridge was constructed in 1566, on the orders of and with money provided by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, at the request of the Mostar's inhabitants. It was built to replace an older medieval chain timber bridge. The builder of the bridge was mimar Hayruddin. The Halebija and Tara towers and fortifications were built in the 1440's by the nobleman Radin and these later underwent a series of alterations. During the reign of Sultan Yavuz Selim I (1512-1520), a mosque was built adjacent to the old bridge. With no minaret, the azaan was called from a stone mounted at the top of the bridge, by the south parapet, thus the bridge had the role of a minaret.

The old bridge in Mostar is associated with the heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina and there are many references to it in literature, poetry and songs. It has also been painted in various works by folk artists, as well as many artists, both nationally and internationally. Ever since it was first constructed, the bridge has been a site for high-diving into the cold fast-flowing river below. For those wishing to watch this spectacle (photos 18-24, below), be prepared to wait, as you may find a diver willing to show off his skills, but only until the onlookers have parted with money.

During the war in 1992, the old bridge in Mostar was damaged and on 9th November 1993, it was completely destroyed by shelling. The bridge collapsed into the river below. The two towers and the belvedere alongside the Halebija tower were also damaged that year. The reconstruction of the old bridge began in September 1997, under the patronage of UNESCO. The rehabilitation of the complex entailed reconstruction of the old bridge itself, complete restoration of the Herceguša, Tara and Halebija towers and parts of the fortifications, as well as reconstruction of the Sultan Selim mosque and other buildings within the complex.

Mostar's old bridge was formally opened on 23rd July 2004 and the following year, the site of the old bridge of the old city of Mostar became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Selected Further Reading:

1. Through The Embers of Chaos - Balkan Journeys by Dervla Murphy, Chapter 9

2. Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia by Lebbeus Woods and Jon Calame

3. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bradt Travel Guides