Masala Square (literally “Place for Prayer” square) is designed for big gatherings. Muslim groups meet at the square before departing for Mecca on their pilgrimage, or Hajj. But on the night of my visit, there was not a hint of prayer. It was prom night. The kids were out...Bosnian hormones were raging. Being young and sexy is a great equalizer. With a beer, loud music, desirability, twinkling stars...and no war...your family's income and your country's GDP hardly matter. Today's 18-year-old Mostarian was a toddler during the war. Looking at these kids and their dried-apple grandparents in dusty black warming benches on the “Place for Prayer” square, I imagined that there must be quite a generation gap.
I was swirling in a snow globe of teenagers, and through the commotion, a thirtysomething local came at me with a huge smile: Alen from Orlando. Actually, he's from Mostar, but fled to Florida during the war and now spends summers with his family here. A fan of my public television series, he immediately offered to show me around his hometown.
Alen's local perspective gave Mostar meaning. There were blackened ruins from the war everywhere. When I asked why — after nearly two decades — the ruins had not been touched, Alen explained, “There's confusion about who owns what. Surviving companies have no money. The Bank of Yugoslavia, which held the mortgages, is now gone. No one will invest until it's clear who owns the buildings." I had never considered the financial confusion that follows the breakup of a country, and how it could stunt a society's redevelopment.
Then Alen pointed to a fig tree growing out of a small minaret. Seeming to speak as much about Mostar's people as its vegetation, he said, "It's a strange thing in nature...figs can grow with almost no soil."
About This Entry
You are reading "A New Mostar Rises from the Rubble", an entry posted on 03 July 2009 by Rick Steves.