Since our publication of Sabah’s article on Tuesday (Feb.12.2013) in regards to the building of the “Sebilj” in St. Louis, we have received numerous inquiries asking for an explanation of what in fact a Sebilj is? We feel obligated to answer that question publicly so that all those who are interested have access to the information.
The Sebilj (Bosnian: sebilj – Turkish: sebil) is a kiosk-shaped public fountain made out of wood and stone, usually built at the public squares or intersections of important roads. Such fountains were common in the lands that were ruled by The Ottoman Empire. The particular design of the fountain that will be built in St. Louis is a work of the Bosnian governor under the Ottomans, Hadži-Mehmed-Paša Kukavica, who built Sarajevo’s Sebilj in 1753 in a part of the city called Baščaršija.
The Sebilj in Sarajevo was relocated by Czech architect Alexander Vitek in 1891. He rebuilt the Sebilj with the features of a pseudo-Moorish style of architecture copied from the stone Sebilj in Constantinople (todays Istanbul). That particular Sebilj, built by Vitek, is the one currently located in Sarajevo.
Over the years many copies of Sarajevo’s Sebilj were built throughout the world. The city of Sarajevo gave a Sebilj as a gift to the city of Beograd, Serbia in 1989, and that Sebilj is still located in Beograd’s neighborhood of Skadarlije. Novi Pazar (Serbia), Birmingham (England) and Sarajevo’s sister city Bursa (Turkey), also have each a Sebilj modeled after the one located in Sarajevo. Our great hope is for St. Louis to become a host for such a cultural, architectural and historic monument, as a sign of friendship and great respect between the Bosnian community and all other communities in St. Louis.