Photograph by David Clifford, 4See/Redux
Constructed in the 13th or 14th century, the spare Friday Mosque was the heart of the ancient city of Chinguetti, Mauritania, a vibrant trading center on the trans-Saharan route.
The city’s original purpose was to provide religious education to travelers, thus the importance of its mosques.
In Pictures: Muslims flock Gadaffi National Mosque at Old Kampala for Eid prayers on Friday. More of the celebrations from different parts of Uganda via New Vision (Photo by Enock Kakande.)
An ornate chandelier and dome lamps illuminate the interior of the Turkish-style Muhammad Ali mosque.
A Mosque built by a Muslim man in Cameroon who was also a traditional healer.
“Maisons du Sahara, habiter le désert” de Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, photographies de Cécile Tréal et Jean-Michel Ruiz, Editions Hazan, 2006.
Mosquée Djingareiber, Tombouctou.
“Houses of the Sahara, living in the desert” by Jean-Loic Le Quellec, photographs by Cecile Treal and Jean-Michel Ruiz, Hazan edition, 2006.
Djingareiber Mosque, Timbuktu.
Aouaki Mosque (top), Bougouberi Mosque (bottom left) and Dang Mosque (bottom right) in Mali.
All photographed by Sebastian Schutyser in 2001.
West African mud mosques satisfy all the standard expectations of mosque architecture — with the qibla marked buy its mihrab, minarets, interior spaces delineated by transverse naves and aisles of columns — while at the same time abstracting these forms that were canonized in the regions of the post-Byzantine, early Islamic Empire.
Mali’s mud mosque architecture is directly related to local domestic architecture. Materials are selected both for their economy and their appropriateness for the remarkably hot climate. Earth used to create mud mortar and mud plaster, and minimal palm wood for scaffolding and roofs, as timber is a rare and costly commodity, compose the forms.
Walls are thick and tapered, to both protect the inside from the heat and support the often two story structures and the roof. During the day, the walls absorb the heat of the day that is released throughout the night, helping the interior of the mosque remain cool all day long. Some structures, for example, Djenne’s Great Mosque, also have roof vents with ceramic caps. These caps, made by the town’s women, can be removed at night to ventilate the interior spaces. Masons have integrated palm wood scaffolding into the building’s construction, not as beams, but as permanent scaffolding for the workers who apply plaster annually during the spring festival to restore the mosque. The palm beams also minimize the stress that comes from the extreme temperature and humidity changes typical of the climate. Towers are often topped with a spire capped by an ostrich egg, symbolizing fertility and purity.
Situated in the north western Ghanaian village of Larabanga, the mud-built historical Larabanga Mosque's aesthetics carry the trademark Sudano-Sahelian architectural styles that originated in Western Sudan, and is similar to that of the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali and the Agadez Grand Mosque of Niger.
Dating as far back as the 17th century, the Larabanga Mosque is said to be Ghana’s oldest mosque.