Djenne is a city in Mali, detailed information about the African city and its main attraction, the Great Mosque. The largest clay mosque in the world.
One of the oldest African cities is located in the Republic of Mali about four hundred kilometers from Bamako, between the rivers Bani and Niger. Djenne is the center of an urban community of over 300 square kilometers, which includes several nearby settlements: Kamaraga, Soala, Dyabolo, Velingara, Nyala, Belle, Soala, Gomnikuboe and others.
Djenne was founded in the thirteenth century as a trading hub, which was actively used by Guineans and merchants from Sudan. A little later the city became part of the Songai Empire, where it became the most important commercial and cultural center of Africa. However, the booming maritime trade deprived the city of its precious status. At the end of the nineteenth century, the French took over the city, moving almost all the trade to the neighboring province of Mopti.
In the late 1980s the historic districts of Jenne were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The main attraction is the Great Mosque, built in the thirteenth century. Due to repeated destructions and reconstructions the building acquired its present form at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The most popular religious building in West Africa among tourists is the clay mosque in Mali. It is the largest monument and a true symbol of Sudanese-Sahel architecture that has survived to this day. Area of the mosque is 75 square meters and its minarets are 50 meters high.
The mosque was built using only three materials: sand, clay and water.
Since clay can hardly be called a durable building material and the rainy season in the Djenne region is common, beams and scaffolding are regularly used to reinforce the Great Mosque. After heavy rains, the earthen structures need to be restored as quickly as possible, so tourists may well see not only the building itself, but also dozens of volunteers restoring it. Because of these costs, as well as the electrification of the structure, its roof has been tiled in places.
Alas, only observant Muslims are allowed inside the mosque, as special information boards at the entrances explain. To ignore these rules is not recommended, even during excursions organized by local guides.
However, there is an opinion that for a few thousand MLF tourists can still get inside, despite all bans.
If travelers do not plan to pay for dubious offers, they have every right to walk freely (and for free) in the historic district. It is a rather intricate clay labyrinth in which one can not only get lost, but also get to know the way of life that has not changed over the past few centuries.
On Mondays, a traditional market is organized in front of the mosque, which brings together people from all the surrounding settlements. It is believed that early morning is the best time to take pictures of this picturesque event.
The city of Djenne is about 350 kilometers from Timbuktu and 400 kilometers from Bamako. You can reach Djenne from these cities by car on the AN6 or by shuttle bus.
Tourists who prefer public transportation will have to change in the town of Mopti, approximately 70 kilometers from Djenne. The trip lasts about two hours and the cost of the ticket is 3000 MLF – 5000 MLF. Unfortunately, the Bani River goes out of its banks in the latter part of the year, so the bus trips are often cancelled.
You can get to Djenne by bus from the town of Segu. Two hundred kilometers of travel takes about four hours and the ticket costs 6,000 MLF.
At the entrance to the city there is a so-called “checkpoint” where you must buy tickets for tourist visits to the city for 1000 MLF.
It is assumed that a tourist with such a ticket gives him the official right to take pictures of any objects in the city.
In practice, however, no traveler has yet encountered problems due to the lack of a ticket. Therefore, tourists who rent a car always pass by this booth. Almost all shuttle buses do the same.
The Great Mosque of Djenne
The city of Djenne and its unusual mosque are located in the country of Mali (Africa). The city is located in the floodplain of the Bani River, so during the rainy season the traffic here is irregular, because of the overflow of river water. For centuries, the city was known as the center of the gold trade. Gradually Islam became popular there and in the 15th-16th centuries Djenne was reputed as a Muslim religious center from which Islam spread to other areas.
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The exact date of construction of the Jenne Mosque cannot be determined, but the first mentions of it date back to the 13th century, and it is possible that that mosque had a slightly different appearance than it does now. In the 19th century, the great mosque of Djenne was destroyed by Amadou, who was the chief of the Fulani people. He conquered the city and decided not to spare the local mosque.
However, as early as 1893, the city became subject to the French. During this period, the local population, with the support of the French administration, began to erect the mosque in the form in which it was before the destruction. It is assumed that the mosque was erected again in 1907, but it may have happened in 1909. Parts of the walls of the old structure were used during this construction.
Speaking of this structure, one significant point cannot be omitted. The Great Mosque of Jenne is an earthen structure that is considered the largest of its kind. Although it is not built only from clay. It was built using a mixture of clay, hay, dung and rice husks. It is the only material that is ubiquitous in the area. There is even a name for it – “banco”. Not only the mosque, but also the dwellings of local residents are made of banko.
Banko has a lot of advantages, but it is extremely short-lived. When the rainy season begins, the buildings are slowly eroded. Especially affected are small buildings. So the houses of local residents, as if melting under the rainwater. The Jenne Mosque also suffers greatly. It is impossible to determine the age of the mosque because it has to be repaired every year.
This annual ritual has become a real festival for the locals. Near the mosque almost all the men of the city gather and begin the restoration. First of all, they restore the mosque and only then they take up their houses. During this period, if you look at the Djenne Mosque, it looks like a big anthill, where people ants go back and forth.
During the festival, another mystery of the mosque is revealed. Many people are very interested in why there are so many wooden beams stuck into the mosque. Because of them from afar the religious building seems very militant and more like a fortress than a mosque. The beams, like the structure’s sharp teeth, stick out and frighten off ill-wishers. But in fact the purpose of these beams is quite peaceful. It is upon them that volunteer restorers move when patching up the building.
The Great Mosque of Djenne stands on a square platform, with a side of 75 meters. The minaret is 50 meters high and the mosque is 100 meters high. The decoration of the towers are not only belligerent spikes-beams, but also ostrich eggs (in these places they are a symbol of fertility and purity). The Djenne Mosque was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with a part of the old city in 1988.