In photos: The greatest mud structure on earth

Posted by Anton Crone on 26 August 2013

The Great Mosque in Djenné, Mali, is the greatest mud structure on earth. Yes, you can see it from space – just type in ‘Djenné, Mali’ on Google Earth.

The Great Mosque of Djenné stands on a small island in middle of the Bani River. It looks spankingly new because it is resurfaced every year by about 4000 volunteers. That’s more often than I trim my hedge – which you can see from space too.

Over 100 years old, its design is faithful to the original mosque that lasted for about 700 years before falling into disrepair – not for want of mud. Mostly everything here is made of mud as there is very little else.

Access to the island of Djenné is by pirogue or ferry. Every Monday hundreds of pirogues full of people and fish and goats and mud cloth make their way to the island from the villages along the river to sell their wares at the enormous market in front of the mosque. The rest of the week it’s a quiet little island in the stream, but it’s not the type Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers would sing about. That’s why I like it. It’s a mud maze that I don’t mind getting lost in. Around every corner the most colourful and wonderful people play out their lives.

This is the Koranic centre for this region of Mali. Wandering through the labyrinth of alleys and streets on the island you’ll see hundreds of youths studying the Koran on wooden tablets.

TV ain’t big here. Megaphones are, but they don’t just belt out the call to prayer  – on many Saturday nights they play groovy Malian vibes in the square in front of the mosque. Inside, the mosque is a refuge from the sun and a sanctuary for the soul. A more modest monument you’ll struggle to find. Religion aside, it can’t rival Salisbury Cathedral or St. Peter’s. It doesn’t strive to be closer to the heavens, yet it is grander for it because it is so much more a part of this earth.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Pirogues on the Bani River.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Young girl in Djenné.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

The Great Mosque of Djenné.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Young girl in Djenné.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Youth studying the Koran.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Youth studying the Koran.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

In her mother's shoes.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Djenné doorway.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Sleeping figures in the mosque.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Studying the Koran in the mosque.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

Young students of the Koran.

Great Mosque, Djenné, Mali

A megaphone for the call to prayer.

 






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