Sarajevo is the only true historical name for the city. It is a Bosnian word based on saray, the Persian word for the governor’s palace. The letter Y does not exist in the Bosnian version of the Latin alphabet. The “evo” portion comes from Ova (Saray Ovası) meaning “the field around the palace”.
Sarajevo has had many nicknames. The earliest is Šeher, which is the term Isa-Beg Ishaković used to describe the town he was going to build. It is a Turkish word meaning an advanced city of key importance (şehir) which in turn comes from Persian شهر shahr (city). As Sarajevo developed, numerous nicknames came from comparisons to other cities in the Islamic world, i.e. “Damascus of the North”. The most popular of these was “European Jerusalem”
I wrapped my soul in a concrete block,
Unbreakable by any song or prose,
My heart broken on the battlefield,
To become a Sarajevo Rose.
A painful landmark in my life, I
Still have my fingers and ten toes;
My heart now a bittersweet sidewalk,
Often stepped on, Sarajevo Rose…
The loss will not be forgotten.
Steady pain, like a river flows…
Eroding the earth it passes through,
Sprouting another Sarajevo rose.