Grande Mosquée

sights / Architecture

Lonely Planet review

Djenné's elegant Grande Mosque was constructed in 1907, though it's based on the design of an older Grande Mosquée that once stood on the site. Famous throughout the world, the Grande Mosquée has dazzled travellers for centuries - much as it does today.

It was first built in 1280, after Koi Konboro - the 26th king of Djenné - converted to Islam. It remained intact until the early 19th century when the fundamentalist Islamic warrior-king, Cheikou Amadou, let it fall to ruin. The modern form - a classic of Sahel-style (or Sudanese) mud-brick architecture - is faithful to the original design, which served as a symbol of Djenné's wealth and cultural significance.

The wooden spars that jut out from the walls not only form part of the structure, but also support the ladders and planks used during the annual repairs to the mud-render. Overseen by specialist masons, this work takes place at the end of every rainy season, when up to 4000 people volunteer to help.

Inside, a forest of wooden columns supporting the roof takes up almost half of the floor surface. A lattice of small holes in the roof allow beams of light to penetrate between the columns (in the rainy season they're covered with ceramic pots).

Excellent views of the mosque are to be had from the roofs of surrounding houses or the Petit Marché.

Officially non-Muslim visitors cannot go inside, although don't be surprised if you see camera-toting tourists high on a minaret. Bear in mind that, not only have they paid anywhere up to around CFA100 to local opportunists keen to cash in on the tourist dollar, but they're also trampling on local sensibilities in the process.