A Sarajevo Ramadan Spread

There is a special atmosphere in Sarajevo during Ramadan, and at sunset (akšam), when the cannon is fired from Žuta Tabija and ezan is sounded from the minarets whose lights are lit, most Sarajevans are gathered and waiting around a sofra (tablecloth or table) that is full of delicious things to eat.

Updated: 2020/04/23

During Ramadan, which runs this year from April 24 to May 23, 2020, Muslims abstain from food and drink for the greater part of the day by fasting from dawn until sunset, when they break their fast during iftar – the meal that ends the day’s fast.

The sounding of the cannon marks the time of iftar

Since 1997, Smail Krivić has been responsible for firing the cannon up on Žuta Tabija that marks the time of iftar at sunset. This tradition of firing the cannon during Ramadan has been going on for a few hundred years and, while it was stopped during the communist period, it was reinstated after the last war.

The Sarajevo Ramadan Festival has been taking place on Žuta Tabija for the past few years, and both Sarajevans and tourists gather here to observe the firing of the cannon and to enjoy iftar, while taking in a lovely view of the city. Unfortunately, due to the ban measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 viruses, which include a ban on public gatherings, it will not be possible to attend this traditional event every night, but the tradition of marking the end of fasting, with continue with all measures taken.

The fast is usually broken with dates and a glass of water, lemonade or juice, and then followed by dishes like topa, soup, pita, dolma, different varieties of meat and side dishes….

The first item on a Ramadan menu is usually topa, which is specific to Sarajevo and is made by mixing kaymak, butter and different kinds of cheese, and even egg yolks, and letting them melt together over low heat. Topa is made right before iftar is served and is eaten while it’s still warm, along with hot somun that is broken into pieces and dipped into it.

Sarajevo somun is a central component of any table during Ramadan and it differs from somun that is served during the rest of the year in that it is sprinkled with black cumin seeds.

Sarajevans usually spend the time right up to iftar waiting in line for hot somun in front of some popular Sarajevo bakeries like Imaret, Poričanin, Alifakovac, Aišina Pekara…. Bakeries are open during the pandemic, but please note that you must keep your distance (minimum 1.5 m) and wear all necessary protective equipment (gloves, mask) while you wait in front of bakery. Some bakeries, such as the Poričanin bakery, have introduced free home delivery so you can order somuns and other baked goods at your address.

Soup can be served as a starter and Begova čorba, Sarajevska čorba, škembe or tarhana are the most common ones.

National cuisine features heavily in Sarajevo iftars, and the most well-known dish is Sarajevski sahan, which actually features several items in one: stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage leaves or grape leaves, small veal kebabs and stuffed onions. All of these items are served in sahans, deep metal dishes that kazandžijas (coppersmiths) in Baščaršija have been producing for centuries.

Iftar ends on a sweet note, with compote, plum or rose jam and, more commonly, sweets that are covered in a sugary syrup, such as kadaif, hurmadžik, tufahija, baklava, pita od jabuka (a kind of apple pie)….

Bosnian coffee is a must-have at the very end!