Since Baščaršija was the center of commerce and trades in Sarajevo during the Ottoman period, it is assumed that it takes its name from the blacksmiths who worked and forged iron.
When fires engulfed Baščaršija 200 years ago, some master metalworkers moved their workshops from Kazandžiluk to Kovači so that fire from some of them would not burn out of control and spread to the rest of the shops in Baščaršija, which were made of wood.
Coppersmiths, cofffe and tea
Given the lack of precise records about its name, it is possible that the word “Kovači” comes from the blacksmiths-stone cutters who cut stećci and the first Muslim grave markers (later called taščije), because this street is on the road leading to the quarry.
There is an old Muslim graveyard and the Kovači Martyrs’ Cemetery at the top of Kovači, where the first president of an independent BiH, Alija Izetbegović, is buried, along with numerous defenders of Sarajevo from the last war.
Kovači is now one of the most colorful streets in the old town, with a chance to walk along a cobbled street, hear the hammering of coppersmiths in their shops and to see several hospitality facilities along its length.
Nermina Alić’s workshop is on Kovači. She is the only lady coppersmith and copperplater, having learned the craft and inherited the shop from her father, Hadžan. After finishing the Academy of Fine Arts, she began producing unique items that combine traditional techniques with innovation, those used traditionally yet suitable for modern times.
The fact that crafts do not have to pass from one generation to the next is illustrated by the shops of coppersmiths who are simply interested in the trade: the young skater, Sulejman Hrgić, who makes intriguing souvenirs, and Abdulah Hadžić, whose Manufaktura has copper dishware.
Džirlo and Ministry of Ćejf
One of the most popular spots to enjoy the atmosphere of this street is Džirlo teahouse, a favorite among tourists and Sarajevans, where owner Husein Džirlo will prepare you some tea from South Africa, China, India or Turkey, and shower you with interesting stories and an irresistible charm.
Husein's father ran a carpentry shop on Kovači for decades, and it was his wish for one of his sons to open a shop where only tea would be served, because “his uncle had a tea shop where fine people would gather – doctors, travelers, beys….”
Even Reshad Strik, an Australian actor with Bosnian roots, couldn't resist the charm of Kovači. He and his wife Sabina, of Sarajevo, opened Ministry of Ćejf, a cafe/roasters where you can try and buy some of the world’s best coffee blends.
If you’d like to enjoy a lovely view of Sarajevo after visiting Kovači, just head up the hill, toward the fortifications for the old town of Vratnik – Yellow Fortress and White Fortress.