Chaos and Fireworks Mark ‘Sarajevo Day’

resizer25The Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, marked the day it was liberated from Nazi occupation with traffic chaos – and the opening of a landmark shopping and business centre.

“Sarajevo under siege again,” screamed a report by the city newspaper Oslobodjenje on Tuesday, comparing traffic chaos with the four-year, war-time siege of the capital. 

A strike by the city’s public transportation company, GRAS, throughout Monday brought Sarajevo’s traffic to a standstill. Congestion was made worse by restrictions in the center due to finishing touches being made to the new shopping and business complex, BBI Center.

Residents were especially agitated because industrial action was organised on the day the city was celebrating its historic date, April 6, commemorating the end of the Second World War occupation.

Without trams, buses and all other forms of public transport, and with all taxis fully booked, Sarajevans struggled to move around.

“I feel imprisoned,” said Saida Mustajbegovic, Sarajevo-based sociologist. Without a car, taxis or city transport, she was stuck in Sarajevo’s southwestern suburb of Dobrinja.

“I was really furious,” she added. “They took away Sarajevo’s special day.”

The traffic chaos caused one frustrated inhabitant to create a makeshift raft and sail it down the shallow and polluted Miljacka river.

Yet the day still ended on a celebratory note, after the city authorities and GRAS management reached a deal with workers. This ended the strike on Monday night, just in time for the grand opening of the BBI Center.

The swanky complex was built by a conglomerate of Islamic banks – including Islamic Development Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and locally registered Bosnia Bank International – which invested more than €35 million. Construction work lasted for almost three years.

The centre – considered one of the most beautiful new buildings in the city – was constructed on the site of the old Sarajka shopping center, seen by most as one of the ugliest socialist-era structures.

BBI Center will create 1,000 new jobs and will house famous international and regional shops. Yet, most Sarajevans were curious to learn the center will operate in line with Islamic principles, meaning no gambling and no pork.

“Some people may like it, some people may object to it,” wrote Bosnia’s news website Pincom in a report.

BBI Center was opened on Monday night by several Bosnian and Islamic officials. Thousands of Sarajevans witnessed the ceremony and magnificent fireworks, which ended a chaotic day in Sarajevo .

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