I still remember the first time I came to Serbia, that was back in 2013. Coming here from a faraway country, Indonesia, ever since my arrival, I have been living in Belgrade. The reasons so: had won a scholarship as an international student, an unforgettable moment of my life.
As I am not much of a behind-the-desk-person, in my nearly five years living in a Balkan country, I have made sure to explore most of Serbia, and also checked in other neighbor countries, the first of which was Bulgaria. However, no matter where I would go, there was Serbian city where I kept on returning, by now having it visited for at least a dozen times. Certainly not the most famous Serbian place of all, but I have really grown keen on Novi Pazar, which takes approximately five hours by bus from Belgrade.
Back in August 2015, when was my seventh visit to Novi Pazar, everything was a little bit more special as I also planned the trip two months before. I changed my appearance and covered my head on this visit. Novi Pazar itself is a multicultural city, a diverse city, which for me, makes it all the more pleasant. There are many mosques and boutiques where I could find hijab, tunic or else to support my plan. Most of the shops sell brands from Turkey.
When Ramazan came in 2017, I also spent several days in this lovely city. When I thought why I like this place so much, I have come to realize that it actually reminds me somehow of my hometown back in Indonesia, where I could easily hear azan (the call for praying in Islam) and pray together with my friends. As well as had iftar, the breakfasting in the mosque.
Over time I have come to have other favorite cities in Serbia as well, however, by then I already made a great number of friends in Novi Pazar. In some instances, I have even been a Novi Pazar guide for my Serbian friends who live in Belgrade, and in another instance, I also guided a local Indonesian television as it was producing a documentary movie entitled Muslim Traveler in Novi Pazar.
Several more reasons why I love traveling to this city in the Serbian district of Raška is that I could easily meet people elsewhere downtown. One of them was also an Imam in one of the mosques, a lovely family who guides me and accompanies me while I stay there. At the same time, I could still walk alone, enjoy the fresh air of the city, and explore a new corner around, having a coffee alone and eventually recollecting some of my memories on the laptop.
Last but not least, this city might bring me closer to several things I have previously ignored as a Muslim woman who used to live in one of the world’s largest Muslim countries. Easily hearing azan and find a plenty of Islamic books, or meeting with Hafiz Al Quran, a person who thoroughly memorizes Al Quran and can recite it word by word.
I meet new people quite often as I do my travel time, but I don’t push myself to mingle with every single person I come across. And somehow I still meet those people with whom we can talk a lot of things, have a good friendship chemistry and plenty of them so far have come to find them precisely here–a hidden dot on the map–Novi Pazar.
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