With a community of about 10,000 Turks living in Shumen, there are some remnants of Bulgaria’s Ottoman past. West of the city center is the Tombul Mosque (Şerif Halil Paşa Camii), the largest functioning mosque in Bulgaria and one of the largest in the Balkans. The word “tombul” means “fat” and comes from the wide shape of its dome. It has a minaret that’s 40m high.
It was built in 1740 and was undergoing a much-needed restoration during my visit. After paying the 2 lev admission I was able to pop inside for a few minutes to see the elegant decorations.
The courtyard was home to a medrese (religious school) with 12 rooms. In one of the rooms, there were some women knitting and men making handmade crafts. There’s a beautiful şadırvan (ablutions fountain) in the center.
I had a nice chat in Turkish with the caretaker of the mosque and then headed out to explore more of the area. Across the street from the mosque is the bezesten, or Ottoman market hall.
I explored the neighborhood a little more and found the Avsharyan House, built by an Armenian family in the mid 18th century. It’s located near Sveti Asvizazin Armenian Church, which was built in 1843 by Armenian refugees.