Djenne's Mud Masterpiece
Africa’s two most visible landmarks are the pyramids and Djenne Mosque in Mali. The pyramids were constructed out of sand and the Djenne Mosque is the world’s largest mud brick building in the world. The Mosque’s history is fascinating. Its design (Sudano-Sahelian architecture) has influences from three continents. Under the influence of a Mali emperor (Mansa Kanku Mausa), a Spanish architect (Abu Ishaq al-Sahili) from Granada, and being a Mosque had obvious influences from the Middle East. It was first built in 1240 and collapsed during the Jihad of Sheikh Amadu in 1834. The French paid for the restoration in 1893 and it was completed in 1908. In 1988, it was given official World Heritage site status.
How was it built?
The biggest hurdle to the maintenance of the Mosque is that it was built on a flood plain. For that reason, it is built on a platform of regular sun-dried mud bricks, and the walls are between 16-24 inches thick. Mud is a valuable resource in Africa because it keeps buildings cool during the day and warm at night. The structure is reinforced with palm branches and only half of the mosque is covered with a ceiling.
The only moderations to the Mosque are the addition of loudspeakers. The Mosque is more than a tourist attraction and is an integral part of the community. Because it is made out of mud, it constantly needs repairs. Every year the entire community has a festival where they re-plaster it. The men plaster it and the women carry the water.
Can you visit it?
Non-Muslims can see it from the outside. All people use to be able to visit it, but after a fashion photographer took exotic pictures in the interior prayer hall it is now strictly a religious institution.
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Updated: April 27, 2008
Created: July 5, 2005
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