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Travel Africa Mali Wonder of mud - Great Mosque of Djenne

Wonder of mud - Great Mosque of Djenne

Mali, Africa, Mosque in Djenne architecture

The Great Mosque of Djenne (1909) is located in the town of Djenne in Mali. It is the most impressive example of traditional African mud architecture and is (also) saw by UNESCO and declared a World Heritage site. The construction of this mosque was considered an expression of regional pride, and served as a model for other mosques, including those of Niono.

The Great Mosque, in contrast to most West African mosques it is not built in a holy place. In the thirteenth century, the first Muslim ruler of Djenne, Koy Konboro built a palace at this location, but he let it grow into a mosque. This mosque stood until the nineteenth century, when political and religious conflicts led to the destruction of the mosque. In 1896 a replica of the old mosque it has been completed but was quickly decided that they did not meet the requirements. It is said the decision to the mosque and the adjacent madrassa must be rebuilt, influenced by French colonial rulers at that time resided in Djenne.

Between 1906 and 1909 the replica was replaced by a new mosque, which also made use of traditional construction methods, but in an eclectic style. Local religious architecture styles were combined with Islamic influences. The main designer of the mosque was Ismaila Traore, head of the bricklayer`s guild of Djenne.

The building is constructed in a traditional pottery Malian architecture, with local materials, mud and palm wood. If is well maintained, this earth architecture may last many ages. Because of the many floods in the area the mosque is built on an artificial increase. The walls are made of adobe, a sun-dried mud brick. Clay is also used for the joints and the wall. Because the strength of clay is limited, the walls, depending on the height, are four to six meters wide.

The building has a square floor plan of forty to forty meters. Half of the mosque consists of a prayer hall, the other half is a prayer room in the open air. The prayer hall is supported by ninety wooden poles and seats for three thousand believers. The prayer room in the open air is surrounded by an arcade with small openings to the outside. The main wall of the mosque the qibla wall, the wall in which the faithful focus to Mecca when they pray. This wall is decorated with three square minarets from stabbing the wall. The each minaret contain a spiral staircase, and are topped by a cone containing an ostrich egg. The walls of the mosques are reinforced by numerous buttresses, typical of local adobe architecture and give the building a vertical orientation.

The thickness of the walls provides for cooling during the day and night for warmth. The Great Mosque has a system of ceramic drainpipes, so rainfall for adobe building is not too much damaging. In addition a ventilation system with vents in the roof were made, which can be closed during the day with ceramic plates.

A typical element of the facade is an excellent palm wood beam made. These are not part of the structure, but serve as a climber support during the annual maintenance. This maintenance, the restoration of the loam is considered as the main objective of the mosque, takes place during an annual festival with music and food (the Crepissage). Besides keeping a racing bucket with plaster, also makes the application of the patch of mud and rice chaff by the people of Djenne, as a part of the festival.