Tatar Village Mosque from ‘Times of Yore’

Tatar village mosque, Dobrogea, Eastern Romania. (old postcard -1920s-Valentin Mandache collection)

There is something exuding timelessness in this beautiful 1920s postcard (which I found at an antique fair in Bloomsbury, London), depicting Tatar villagers from Romania’s Dobrogea region on the Black Sea coast, gathering for prayer at their poor, but exceedingly picturesque rural mosque. The imam voices his loud calls from the top of a pile of stone slabs resembling a basic minaret, surrounded by pious village elders. On the mosque rooftop a stork nestle calmly, ignoring the humans around her and their peaceful daily business. Under the roof eave, above the doorway, there is also a swallow nest, thus completing the idyllic atmosphere from this ‘times of yore’ village. The native Muslim population of Romania, composed mainly of ethnic Tatars and Turks, lives in Dobrogea/ Dobruja, a province on the western coast of the Black Sea that has been for more than half a millennium an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. Historic Dobrogea is a much larger region shared with neighbouring Bulgaria, adjacent to the Black Sea, and subject of intense controversy and disputes between the two countries. The Romanian province is about three quarters the size of Wales, endowed with a peculiar geography more akin to a Mediterranean rocky landscape (in fact it seems that the name Dobrogea/ Dobruja comes from an old Bulgarian word meaning “stony land”), in sharp contrast with the landscape of the lower Danube steppe that unfurls to its west. The Tatar and Turkish settlements with their Muslim culture have developed a distinctive and beautifully quaint rural architecture and habitat, which nowadays is fast disappearing as money and modern construction materials have become widely available in the region. The image above is a small sample of that old ‘Arcadia’, at peace with itself and its environment, which this region and its natives have enjoyed until recently. On the other hand, the Tatar and Turkish old houses that are now available on the market in the Dobrogea villages, would constitute some of the the cheapest and most rewarding renovation/ restoration projects for anyone willing to take up such at challenge at the eastern confines of the European Union.


I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.


If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.