Evliya Çelebi | Origin of Street Names

Mehmed Zilli, better known as Evliya Celebi (1611-1682), was the most renowned Ottoman travel writer and chronicler of events during the peak of the Turkish Empire's power and expansion.

This might not be particularly interesting to us if it weren't for the fact that, during his extensive journey through the vast Ottoman Empire and neighboring countries, he also visited Serbia. It is precisely his records and notes that serve as the primary and most significant testimony of Serbia in the 17th century.

Evliya Celebi was born in Istanbul into a wealthy family that provided him with the broadest possible education of the time, including at the court of Sultan Murad IV. Taught to observe the world with "open" eyes, he grew into a curious adventurer who embarked on his travels at the age of 20, exploring the territories, people, traditions, and customs of the Ottoman Empire, even extending its borders.

Front Cover of Evliya Celebi's Travelogue

He compiled his precious travel experiences into the magnificent work called "Seyahatname" (meaning "Travelogue" in translation from Ottoman Turkish), which represents a true literary treasure of invaluable importance for the historiography of the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe. This is particularly significant considering the time when literacy, especially in our regions, was an extremely rare occurrence.

The monumental work, spread across ten volumes, includes descriptions of the South Slavic countries, including Serbia, found in volumes 5-8. The most complete translation and selection of excerpts relating to our regions were edited by Bosnian-Herzegovinian historian Hazim Sabanovic in 1967. Unfortunately, this precious material can now only be found in libraries or from antiquarian book dealers.

Evliya Celebi was not only a traveler and chronicler but also a well-educated individual - a writer, musician, and polyglot with a keen scientific outlook on the world, while also being a dervish (a type of Islamic ascetic or monk).

Often referred to as the "Marco Polo of the Orient" or the "Ottoman Herodotus," he could easily stand alongside the Renaissance minds of Europe. His perspectives on the world and descriptions of landscapes, people, and traditions might be even more interesting due to the fact that they come from a unique perspective to which Europeans, at the very least, are not accustomed.

Although his work holds far greater historical significance, today the name Evliya Celebi is associated only with a small blind alley on the outskirts of Kragujevac.

Street Sign of Evliya Celebi