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Ottoman Heritage In Tetovo

Ottoman Heritage in Tetovo

At the end of the 14th century, Macedonia was included in the Ottoman Empire which was one of the largest empires in history. The territory of current Macedonia was part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five hundred years, from the end of the 14th century until the Treaty of Bucharest (1913). Before the invasion, this area was divided between various Serbian feudal principalities. Later it became part of the Ottoman province. The long period of contact with the Ottoman culture has had a great impact on the mentality, language, food and many other aspects of daily life in Macedonia, while the cities gained many oriental urban characteristics.

Colourful Mosque, Tetovo

In this way, Tetovo, or Kalkandelen – as it was known during the Ottoman period, also benefited a lot from the Ottoman Empire, which changed the status of this settlement. We can say that most of the monuments in this city are inherited from the Ottoman Empire. Tourism in this city is oriented towards these historical monuments, which characterize the history of this city and identify Tetovo as an old city with a complete and sufficient history.

Arabati Baba Tekke, Tetovo


From the Ottoman Empire there are characteristic mosques such as: the Pasha’s Mosque, also known as the Colourful Mosque due to its very unique and oriental patterns painted on its façade and its interior; the Eski Mosque, the Clock Tower Mosque, the Mosque in the Upper Bazaar (Top Cami), etc. which belong to the Ottoman cultural heritage.

Very popular urban monuments that are worth visiting are the Turkish Hamam, the famous Arabati Baba Tekke, Tetovo Fortress, and many others.

Tetovo Fortress


About the Eski mosque, professor Behixhudin Shehapi reports that: The mosque called Eski is the oldest mosque in Tetovo. Its very name “eski” which means “old” shows this. According to researchers Ajverdi and Kumbaraxhi-Bogojević, it is assumed that it was built in the first part of the 15th century, during the rule of Sanjak bey Is’hak bey and his son, Isa bey, at the time when the Ottoman Empire was flourishing. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that in its yard there are preserved stones of graves, which are thought to belong to the period of its construction. Its appearance has changed several times until today as a result of numerous interventions. The first intervention took place in the 19th century.


The Eski Mosque


Regarding the Tetovo Fortress, I want to convey to you a story from my grandfather Vesel Xhezairi, who told me that during the time of the Ottoman Empire, there were Ottoman guards in the Tetovo Fortress, and in the village adjacent to the fortress, today called the village of Lavce (Macedonian: Лавце, Albanian: Llacë) the families of Osman shepherds lived there, so the name of this village derives from this period, which was “Inxhe qyl”, meaning – the village of women.

I had the honour of conducting a short interview with a connoisseur of the history of the city of Tetovo, a poet, teacher, author, professor, and recently active in the field of journalism as well, dear Mr. Ismail Arsllani.

He describes Tetovo in the time of the Ottoman Empire as follows:

Polog, a fertile plain that lies at the foot of the Shar Mountain range, in a length of more than 50 kilometers, has been known since the earliest times as a suitable place to live, with some dozens of small rural settlements, such as Gradec (Draudracum), Pirok (Pirgoz), Leshok (Leska), etc., which, especially after the 12th century, have been politically quite important. In this plain, two other settlements, Tetovo and Gostivar, were established earlier, which during the Ottoman occupation were transformed into ‘kasabas’ (small towns), with a significant development of crafts, trade, infrastructure and other civilizing parameters, but also in important political and military centers.


According to Turkish documents, in the 14th century, Tetovo was treated as a village, while as a center it is mentioned in the place of Mehmet Bey’s Vakfi, in the year 1436, where it is said that the settlement had many shops and workshops, as well as new neighborhoods. According to the famous Turkish traveler and writer, Mehmet Evlia Çelebia, Tetovo, began to resemble a city in 1470.


He tells about the monuments built during that time in Tetovo and also tells us that Tetovo as a city was mentioned in 1689.

With the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in these territories, Tetovo also began its first developments as a city, while during that period several cultural-historical objects were built, such as the Pasha’s Mosque (or Colorful Mosque), Arabati Baba Tekke, the old Hamam near the Pena or Shkumbin River, the Abdurrahman Pasha Fortress, several mosques, the pasha’s mansions, the stone bridges over the river, clock towers, etc. With these constructions and a development of craftsmanship, Tetovo was mentioned as a city for the first time in 1689.

He also told us about the Pasha’s Mosque (Colorful Mosque), highlighting its importance as a striking and historical object of Tetovo!

One of the most striking cultural-historical objects of Tetovo as a city, inherited from the time of Ottoman rule, is the Pasha Mosque, dating from the 15th century, which was expanded and upgraded by Abdurrahman Pasha in 1832, a cult object with oriental Islamic decorations, arabesques and ornaments, rare in terms of artistic value, which is why this sacred object is also under the protection of the state, as well as being the destination of the tourist route.

From all of this, we learn that we have inherited a valuable heritage from the Ottoman times, which documents the history of the city, thus preserving the culture that was bequeathed to us. I hope that this will inspire many young people, as well as future generations to explore further and preserve the historic legacy of our town.

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