Destinations Magazine

Ottoman Comfort

By Stizzard
Ottoman comfort

TWO decades ago a small wave of Arabs arrived in Bosnia, jihadists coming to fight on the side of the country’s Muslim Bosniaks. Today another wave of Arabs is coming—this time for skiing, saunas and condos. In 2010 Sarajevo, the capital, registered about 1,000 tourists from the six Arab oil monarchies in the Gulf combined; in the first ten months of 2015, over 19,000 came from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia alone. Arab property investment has ballooned. For a country mired in bureaucracy and political stalemate, the new investments provide a welcome bright spot.

The thermal baths of the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza have drawn tourists since Roman times, and took off as a resort under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the Bosnian war of 1992-95 the resort seemed doomed. But the past three years have seen an extraordinary renaissance. First came Libyan militiamen, benefitting from Bosnian expertise in therapy for wounded veterans. Other Arabs followed. Now estate agents, restaurants, hotels and dentists all advertise in Arabic.

In the café of the Hotel Hollywood (where NATO forces snatched two alleged al-Qaeda members in the weeks after the…

The Economist: Europe

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