02 May, 2011

Masjid: Mosques of Eastern Africa VI

Ethiopia or Abyssinia or Al'Habasha: is a land very rich in water but stalked by hunger; it has its own alphabet and has never been colonized. It is a land that will always be lovingly and fondly remembered by Muslims as the first place that was chosen by the Founder of Islam as the one to flee to, for some of the persecuted Muslims in Makkah, during those most trying days at the beginning of Islam. Two places: Madinat Al Munawwara and Ethiopia embody the Hijra and the Islamic Calendar. Since that first migration of a few Muslims to Ethiopia, Islam has grown and flourished and today 45% to 52% of Ethiopians are Muslims: in Africa, it has the third largest Muslim population after Egypt and Nigeria. A Muslim population that has, since that great Hijra, lived and coexisted peacefully with the millions of  Christians, mainly Coptic, who are as many as Muslims in this land of about 90 million people. Nearby in the North, is Eritrea, a land of very proud people whose culture, traditions and languages are very similar to Ethiopia's; here too, Muslims are about half of the population. To the east of Ethiopia, are Djibouti and Somalia, who are overwhelmingly Muslim. In all: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia; there are many mosques:

There are thousands of mosques in every part of Ethiopia. Most are small and many are colorful.
Masjid, Addis Ababa

Addis Abeba, the capital of Africa, situated on the foothills of the Etoto Mountains has one of the most pleasant climates you can find. Founded by Emperor Menelik II in the late 19th Century, it now has about three or so million people. Addis Abeba has many mosques.
Masjid Jam'ia Al Anwar, Addis Ababa
The Al Anwaar Grand Mosque located in one of the largest open markets in Africa, Merkato, is one of the oldest and most well attended and known mosques in Addis Ababa.
Masjid Addis Ababa
Most of the mosques in Addis Abeba are small and many are squeezed in between buildings.
Masjid Al Noor
Al Noor mosque is reportedly the oldest mosque in Addis and is said to have been built by a Hadhrami. To this day, the Hadharem are still prominent in Ethiopia.

Bahir Dar
Bahir Dar: on the southern shore of Lake Tana is a city of palms and flowers and rapidly growing. It has one of the most recognizable mosques in Ethiopia.
Masjid, Gondar
Gondar is one of the oldest cities in Ethiopia and in the olden times had its own segregated Muslim quarters known as Addis Alem. Today, Gondar has many old picturesque ruins which includes castles and old religious buildings. It has many old and some new mosques.
Ethiopia's history is synonymous with religion. Islam has played a very prominent role throughout the country's history. Many of the old royal members were Muslims and so are many of today's Ethiopian leaders and prominent people.
Ethiopia too, will always be known as the first place in Africa that received Islam. And it is the first place in Africa and one of the very first in the world to have mosques.
No where else in Ethiopia are there so many mosques per-capita as there are in the Arabesque, Walled City of Harar or as known by its inhabitants: the Harar Jugol. In Harar, wherever you are you will hear the call for prayers.
Harar, for centuries - has been a center and a magnet for trade and knowledge; it has some of the oldest mosques in the world. It has been a center for Islamic culture for hundreds of years.
Harar's Old Town, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list, has about one-hundred mosques; most of which are old and within the walled city.
Apart from mosques, museums, a unique language and being the administrative capital of the Harage region, Harar has many attractions. It has other old, religious buildings; it is also known for its hyenas that are tenderly and lovingly fed by men, just after sunset, a short distance from the gates of the city. And Harar has wonderful views all around.

Although, now, not as well maintained as it should be - especially its old colonial buildings, Asmara is strikingly beautiful and wonderful. And neat. Very few people know that Asmara is one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities in Africa. Many say that in Africa, no city is as mesmerizing in beauty as the capital of Eritrea. 
Masjid Khulafa Al Rashideen, Asmara
Asmara has many mosques; many, close to churches. The most notable and most known mosques in Asmara are: the Masjid Al'Khulafa Al Rashideen, the Masjid Khalid bin Waleed, the Masjid Omar bin Abdul Aziz, the Masjid Omar bin Khatthab and the Masjid Abu'bakar Al Siddique.
Keren or Cheren, is a city high up in the country; with peaks all around. It is the second largest city in Eritrea, like Asmara - it is delightful, pleasant and neat; it too, has many attractive old Ethiopian and Italian colonial buildings. And many mosques. 
People in Keren dress very much like the Sudanese; both men and women. Like in all Eritrea, people are full of pride, most friendly and welcoming here. The majority of the population here is Muslim. Wherever you are in Keren, you will hear the call for prayers, five times a day.
Old mosque, Massawa
Eritrea's history is firmly intertwined to that of Ethiopia. Its culture, traditions and religions are similar to those of Ethiopia. As in Ethiopia, there are many Muslims and mosques in Eritrea. Many Eritreans speak Arabic which is one of the country's main languages. Yemenis are many in Eritrea, and Massawa, very much like Asmara and Keren - is very Arabic in many ways. There are still a few Hadharem and many of their descendants in the country.
Muslims are about half of the population of Eritrea. Most Muslims live along the country's scenic, long coast; along the border with Sudan; in Anseba and Gash-Barka. In the port of Massawa or Mitsiwa on the Red Sea, most of its people are Muslim. Massawa is: two islands - Tualud and Batse - and the mainland; the islands are more pleasant than the mainland.
Sheikh Hanafi Mosque, Massawa
The Sheikh Hanafi mosque is reportedly hundreds of years old and is one of the oldest in Africa. Be advised: it is best to visit Massawa in winter; during summers, end of April to beginning of October, it is boiling hot and humid.
Almost all the people in Djibouti are Muslims; every town or village in Djibouti has a mosque. Remarkably, Djibouti has very few large or outstanding or distinguishable mosques. Most of its mosques are small and not that well maintained. Here too, there are many Yemenis.
If not for continuous wars and conflict which has destroyed much of it, Mogadisho was a pleasant, attractive city. The long instability, has left the city's structures very much destroyed or riddled by bullets; including the many mosques. The most famous and one of the oldest of these mosques is the centuries old Masjid Arba'a Rukun.
Pleasant Hargeisa, capital of the self proclaimed Somaliland, has a population of over a million people. It is safe and peaceful; and is growing fast. Except for the few who work for the many NGOs, most people here are Muslims.

The city has many well maintained mosques. Many are new. Hargeysa has a few Hadharem but many descendants of people from the Hadhramaut. Like Hargeysa, Bosaso, a city in the northern autonomous Puntland, is booming. Booming and fast growing with construction of mainly residential houses of all kinds: some cheap and some very expensive. The city is also the telecom hub for Somalia..
 Bosaso, as pleasant too as Hargeisa, is a sea port not far from Hadhramout. It gets many visitors; many of whom are Yemenis. It is expanding fast. With the expanding city and suburbs, many mosques too have been built in Bosaso; many, close to each other.
During those very difficult, very painful and exhaustive first Muslim migrations to the Kingdom of Aksum, modern day Ethiopia, about 1,400 years ago, those fleeing could never have thought that a time would come when, along Eastern Africa, from Ethiopia extending all the way to Mauritius, there would be thousands of mosques.

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