The central location and proximity to Roman ruins and the Central Mineral Bath make this an interesting area to visit.
Banya Bashi Mosque in Sofia was built in 1576 in the heyday of the Ottoman military expansion. At the time, Sofia was the capital of the Ottoman European provinces and hosted the army and the regional administration.
Mimar Sinan, the best-known Ottoman architect at all time, was charged with designing the mosque.
Banya Bashi, however, remained far from Sinan’s greatest architectural achievements, such as the Selimiye mosque in Edrine and the Suleiman mosque in Istanbul.
Once one of over 30 mosques in town, Banya Bashi is currently the only active Muslim temple in Sofia.
In the 1880s, all but a few of the city’s ethnic Turks relocated inside the shrinking borders of the Ottoman Empire. The mosques that were left behind were either destroyed or turned into churches.
After the fall of Communism, Islam (alongside with all other religions) welcomed the newly-adopted religious freedoms and reinstated the customary call for prayer from its minaret. This caused many political controversies and noise complaints.
Many ethnic Bulgarians continue to feel uneasy about the presence of an active mosque in the center of the city and the area has become a place of choice for the occasional pro-racist protests, mostly organized by the ultra-right party “Ataka” (attack).
On at least one occasion protests have resulted in violence.
The mosque also suffered substantial damage in an earthquake in 2012 but has been partially repaired since.