Islamic History in Lithuania
Just before my trip to Bosnia two years ago, I spoke to Tharik Hussain, a Muslim travel blogger focusing on documenting the European Islamic heritage, who told me over twitter about some of the rich history of Muslims in Europe. Since then, it has been on my mind. I was very busy prior to my Lithuania trip, so I didn't plan it fully, but when I got there, I remembered the European Muslims and looked into the Islamic history of Lithuania further. I looked up the closest mosques to Vilnius and it was the Nemėžis mosque. It was 5km from the city in a little city. I was very tempted by the history of the area that I decided to just go for a visit. I asked my hotel to call the number online and they said they will be open.
The heritage of the Muslim in Lithuania goes back to the Turkish Tatars that were invited to help in the war because of their warrior reputation. Since their moved, they have preserved their Islamic practice and are spread around Lithuania in specific areas such as Nemėžis and a few others.
Getting to Nemėžis mosque from Vilnius
Luckily, I was in Vilnius on a Friday, which means that the mosque will be open during prayer time. Finding the right bus and directions was easy through Google Maps. There were two bus options from the main bus station in Vilnius. The journey was half an hour on the bus.
Going back required a bit of wait in the very cold weather though, so plan your return according to the bus schedule because they aren't frequent.
The Nemėžis mosque is located 5km from Vilnius and it went through a series of event. The same location housed a place of worship since the 14th century. In 1684 a wooden mosque was officially built. The building itself have been burnt with wars then rebuilt in 1909. It was reopened after the Soviet wars in 1993. Some part of the structure such as the dome are new and from 2009. I was just really curious to see the sight and the simple wooden square that is the mosque. I liked the simplicity of it and I felt nostalgic to what the community once was. There is a graveyard outside of the mosque and I walked through it to see how it was put together. Some graves had pictures engraved on them, which is something I haven't seen before.
Anything else to see near Nemėžis mosque?
The village is tiny and I didn't find anything else to see or do, so I went back to Vilnius right after the prayers. Maybe I would have walked around it more if the weather was nice, but it was extremely cold and I just left. I was a little shy to approach the men in the mosque that's why I couldn't have asked about other spots and sadly there weren't any women there.
If I had more time and connections, I would have gone to the Keturiasdešimt Totorių meaning 40 tatars because the history of it is even older. I couldn't figure out how to get there with public transports and I decided last minute so I had to miss it. Tharik Hussain has written about it though and it's worth a read.