Djenné, Mali

Porter T.

Location

Djenné is a town located in Mali in sub-Saharan Africa. It's situated in the floodlands of the Niger and Bani rivers. Timbuktu is about 220 miles northeast.
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History of Djenné

Djenné was founded by merchants as a meeting place for traders in around 800 AD. In 1468, it was captured by Sonni Ali and became Mali's most important trading center of the 1500's. Djenné thrived because it had a river connection with Timbuktu and nearby gold and salt mines. From 1591-1780 it was controlled by Moroccan kings and the market expanded, with items from North and Central Africa. In 1834, Amadou Lobbo conquered Djenné during the Tukulor War and demanded that the original mosque be destroyed because he thought it was "too lavish". Then, in 1893, it was taken over by the French. Today, the only remaining pieces of the original mosque are the graves of fallen leaders.
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Description of the Great Mosque

The Great Mosque of Djenné is a place for Islamic and Muslim students and pilgrims, built on a plinth to keep it away from the floods. It's made of sun-dried mud bricks with mud plaster and mud mortar. The mud acts as an insulator from the sun. The outside gets hot during the day and cool at night while the inside stays nice and cool all the time. The wall thickness depends on how high the wall is, and they range from 16 inches to 24 inches thick. The Prayer Hall has 90 wooden pillars holding up the ceiling and can hold up to 3,000 people. The Mosque has 3 massive towers and on top are ostrich eggs to symbolize fertility and purity.

What has been found in the mosque?

Excavations led in 1977, '81, '96, and '97 revealed many interesting remnants of early life in Djenné from as early as 200 BCE. People found items like funerary jars, pottery, millstones, grinders, shards of metal scoria, statuettes, Djenné ferey, and finally, ancient Islamic burial grounds.

Interesting Facts

The Great Mosque is the largest mud building in the world and is one of the most important pieces of Sudano-Suhelian architecture. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is under temporary but constant construction since it requires annual restoration. One of Djenné's biggest town traditions is the yearly reparation of the Mosque, because they always have to add a little more mud in order to keep the walls intact. In 1996, Vogue magazine did an illegal shoot of the Mosque's interior, and now foreign visitors are banned from the inside.

Traveling to Djenné

Thinking about traveling to Djenné or the Mosque? You have to go at the right times for maximum fun. The best time to go is around August and September, because that's the end of the rain season, and Djenné turns into an island during the rain. There are some super cool places to stay, like the Hotel Tapama or Auberge le Maafir. There's Le Campement de Djenné and Chez Baba as well. Tour costs vary depending on program and amount of people. The Mali Timbuktu Tour from Journey's International is a 13 day tour that costs about $2650. You could go through World Heritage Tours as well, which is also a 13 day tour and costs $1995 per person. That tour covers three of the World Heritage Sites of Mali. The entire trip will cost you roughly $4,000.

Works Cited

Works Cited

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