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Watermelons floating alongside the Buna river during that class Hercegovina mid-summer heat wave, that was my picture of Blagaj as a child. My parents were pure Mostarians, the kind that were so attached to their hometown that they had never truly dug into the depths of Blagaj—not the canyon, not the folklore, not the people. As an adult, I was drawn to Blagaj, to the Tekija specifically. From my home in Mostar, I rode my bike to it and brought all of my guests to visit the Dervish home, wondering if they could see what I saw. Some did, some didn’t.

I had a feeling Blagaj held something special for me, and when I met the love of my life there, I was finally open to it. My partner and I had the gift of spending our Corona quarantine in Blagaj, a place that felt like an island in the center of a chaotic sea of confusion. Then, there, I got to know Blagaj—the people and the place, a truly symbiotic relationship. The rocks, the ravens, the herbs growing from every which corner, the neighbors and their openness to sharing, the way the sun sets on the rocks, how the ezan reminds you to pause throughout the day, Buna and her companion, Bunica, and the community of youth, of climbers, and of helpers who are the keepers of Blagaj’s charm, all these components play a part.   

As a child, it was where watermelons cooled in the summertime, where you could eat the best trout. As an adult, it’s the ground where I let my love and life grow together. Magic awaits all who enter Blagaj, if they are willing and open to receive it.

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