The Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque, also known as the Imperial Mosque, was built in 1461 by Sultan Mehmet II Fatih and is one of the largest and best preserved Mosques in Pristina. It’s located in the old town centre, next to the Central market and not far from the National Museum. It was restored in 1682 by Sultan Mehmet IV and later, during the Austro-Habsburg empire, was for a period a Jesuit church, until it was reconverted back to a Mosque after the second world war. After the minaret collapsed in an earthquake in 1955, it was reconstructed. Both the inside and outside of this beautiful mosque have been comprehensively restored with funding from Turkey.
It has historically been and still is today, an important focal point and meeting place for Pristina’s Muslims and during the day one can see friends and acquaintances gathering, talking and just hanging out. Albanian majority Kosovo is predominantly Sunni Islam, but there’s also historically been a strong Bektashi Sufi minority.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, has been trying to infiltrate and spread Wahabbism and has funded the construction of many new brash looking mosques around the country, which are hot beds of extremism, trying to capitalise on the disenfranchised and high unemployment levels. This has resulted in some radical elements of the population enlisting to fight Jihad in Syria and other theatres of war. However, this mosque in the centre of old town Pristina, is the complete opposite in terms of what it stands for and promotes.
This man is the Guardian of the Mosque, and I saw him each day diligently taking care of the outside and inside of the building, helping people and respecting the sanctity of the place. I thought his eyes belayed serious pain from atrocities witnessed during the war, from the ethnic cleansing of Albanians that took place in the late 1990’s, by the Serbs under Slobodon Milošević.