06 March, 2012

Masjid: Mosques of Western Africa

Today over 20% of the World's Muslims live in Africa. Africa, where about 50% of its population are Muslims; most of who are in West Africa - which is one of the earliest places to have received Islam (read this). West Africa has had a long, rich history with Islam and some of its celebrated leaders - present and past, have been Muslim. Wherever you are in Western Africa, you will find a Muslim. And you will find a mosque. Some of the earliest and some of the most intricately built mosques, are in this part of Africa.

Djenne, Mali
One of the oldest mosques in West Africa is the Grand Mosque of Djenne, Mali. It is world famous and is renowned as a work epitomizing earthen Islamic architecture. The mosque is mainly made of earthen bricks and wood. Every spring, the mosque is meticulously re-plastered with mud. During its heydays, D'jenne was not only one of the main commercial centers in Africa, it was also a center for Islamic learning and pilgrimage. Read more of Mali's wonderful Islamic architecture here
Burkina Faso, Mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso
Another old mosque in Western Africa, also elaborately built of mud and earthen structures - is found in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. The poles sticking out of the walls have both - a structural function and to help climb up the mosque when it's in need of repairs. 
Ghana, Larabanga Mosque - 14th Century
The Larabanga Masjid, is the oldest mosque in Ghana. Note how similar in shape and structure it is to the Bobo-Dioulasso mosque. Read the book: Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa, by James Morris, about these amazing Sudanese architecture. See some of Moriss's superb photos here.
Masjid
In the remotest of villages, in Western Africa, a mosque can always be found.
Cape Verde
In Western Africa, Muslims, though few, are in all the islands. In Cape Verde, Muslims are very few, but the number is growing.
Sao Tome and Principe
In the scenic islands of Sao Tome and Principe, there are even fewer Muslims. I do not know of any mosques on these islands - reportedly, there are none.
Porto Novo, Benin
Islam is well established in Benin and there are many mosques in the country.
Cameroon, N'Gaoundere
Muslims make about 25% of Cameroon's population. All across this country, mosques can be found.
Jami'a Mosque, Libreville, Gabon
In Western Africa, Cameroon has one of the most active Muslim population. 
Jami'a Mosque, N'Djamenna
Chad is predominantly Muslim and mosques can be found in every populated part of the country.
Gambia, Mosque in Serekunda
Gambia's population is almost wholly Muslim. This small, peaceful country, has many beautiful mosques. And many more are being built.
Ghana, Jami'a Mosque, Accra
The real number of Muslims in Ghana (45%) is believed to be much more than the official one of 12%. Of the many mosques found - in one of Africa's most democratic countries and in a country where Muslims and people of other religions have harmoniously coexisted with each other for generations, is the Jami'a Masjid in Accra.
Masjid, Guinea
Guinea, is another very small country in West Africa which is predominantly Muslim. Guinea has many beautiful mosques that can be found in many of the populated parts of the country. 
Masjid, Guinea-Bissau
Another tiny West African country with a majority Muslim population, is Guinea Bissau. It has many mosques, too.
Jami'a Mosque, Abidjan
In Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), Muslims make up about half the population. There are many mosques in the country, especially in the North. The Jami'a Masjid in Abidjan, is one of the most grand in the country.
Masjid, Liberia
Although marginalized for long, particularly in the past - the number of Muslims have steadily continued to grow in Liberia. They now make up about 20% of the population. Many of the mosques that were destroyed during the gruesome civil war are now being repaired; and more are being built.
Jami'a Mosque, Niamey, Niger
Almost all the people of Niger are Muslims. The country has many mosques, some very old.
Jami'a Mosque, Abuja
Islam is the largest religion in Nigeria where Islam has a long and rich history. There are many mosques in the country - small and large. Some new, like the one above in the capital city, Abuja.
Masjid, Kano Old Port
Kano, in the far North of Nigeria, has the second largest population after Lagos. Islam is predominant here and Kano City has many old mosques.
Lagos
Lagos, the port city in the South, is the most populous city in Nigeria and, of cities, it has the second largest population in Africa - after Cairo. With about half of its population being Muslim, Lagos has many mosques. Most of which are new.
Jami'a Mosque, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is predominantly Muslim. Above, one of the many mosques in the country, is the Jami'a Masjid in the capital city, Freetown; like the main Kampala mosque in Uganda - it was built by the late Libyan leader: Muammar Gaddafi.
Masjid, Togo
Of West African countries, figures for the exact numbers of Muslims in Togo - depending on the source of the figures, vary considerably. Muslims in Togo make up any where from 20% to 55% of the population. In most populated areas, can be found mosques.
Masjid Cheikh Oumar Foutiyou Tall, Dakar
Of African countries, Senegal, is one of the very few that I have the highest regards and liking for. Almost every one in Senegal is a Muslim. Most practice a unique form of Sufism.
Jami'a Mosque, Oukam, Dakar
Of West African countries, mosques in Senegal are grander and are much cleaner. In this country too, can be found some of the most beautiful mosques in this part of Africa.
Masjid, Goree Island, Senegal
Mosques, in Senegal are of varying shapes and architecture. This variety is very refreshing. In the center of the country, is the holy city of  Mouridism, Touba; next to the grand mosque, below, is where Mouridism's founder: Sheikh Amadou Bamba, is buried.
Masjid Touba, Senegal

In Western Africa, Islam has a long and rich history. Some of the greatest and most renowned old Islamic centers and mosques are found in this part of Africa. Many of the mosques here, old and new, have some story to tell. And unlike nowhere else in Africa, mosques in Western Africa vary from the very tiny without minarets, to the very large with imposing tiered minarets; from the old mud bricked structures - to the very modern multi-storied, tiled; with some - marbled. 

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