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The Mosque of Djenné

Listed under Mosques in Mali.

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The oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa, Djenné is 220 miles southwest of Timbuktu. Founded by merchants around 800 AD, near the site of an older city dating from 250 BC, Djenné flourished as a trading center between the deserts of Sudan and the tropical forests of Guinea. Controlled by Moroccan kings between 1591 and 1780, its markets further expanded, featuring products from across the vast regions of North and Central Africa. In 1893 the city was occupied by the French and its commercial functions were taken over by the town of Mopti.

In addition to its commercial importance, Djenné, was also known as a center of Islamic learning and pilgrimage, attracting students and pilgrims from all over West Africa. Its Great Mosque dominates the large market square of Djenné. Local legends tell that the first mosque was built in 1240 by the sultan Koi Kunboro, who converted to Islam and turned his palace into a mosque. The present mosque, begun in 1906 and completed in 1907, is built on a platform of sun-dried mud bricks and constructed entirely from mud and palm wood. Djenné's masons have integrated wood scaffolding into the building's construction, not as beams, but as supports for the workers who apply plaster during the annual spring festival to replaster the mosque. Many of the citizens of Djenné work for weeks to prepare a mixture of mud and rice husks for this festive community event. The mosque’s three towers are each topped with a spire capped by an ostrich egg, these eggs symbolizing fertility and purity.

More about Djenne and its Mosque.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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