Africa’s Largest Mosque Inaugurated In Algeria After Years Of Delays

Algeria has inaugurated a gigantic mosque on its Mediterranean coastline after years of political upheaval transformed the project from a symbol of state-sponsored strength and religiosity to one of delays and cost overruns.

Built by a Chinese construction firm throughout the 2010s, the Great Mosque of Algiers features the world’s tallest minaret, measuring 265 metres (869 feet).

The third-largest mosque in the world, the biggest in Africa, and the largest outside Islam’s holiest cities, its prayer room accommodates 120,000 people. Its modernist design contains Arab and North African flourishes to honour Algerian tradition and culture, as well as a helicopter landing pad and a library that can house up to 1 million books.

The inauguration would guide Muslims “towards goodness and moderation,” said Ali Mohamed Salabi, the general secretary of the World Union of Muslim Ulemas.

The interior of the Great Mosque of Algiers

Propagating a moderate brand of Islam has been a key priority in Algeria since government forces subdued an Islamist-led rebellion throughout the 1990s, when a bloody civil war swept the country.

The Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, inaugurated the mosque in an event that was largely ceremonial, as the mosque has been open to tourists and state visitors to Algeria for about five years. An earlier ceremony was delayed.

The timing allows the mosque to officially open to the public in time to host nightly prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins next month.

The project was dogged by delays and controversy during the seven years the mosque was under construction, including the choice of site, which experts warned was seismically risky. The state denied that in a news release posted on Sunday on Algérie Presse Service, the state news agency. Many Algerians criticised the project, saying they would rather have had four hospitals built throughout the country.

A night view of the Great Mosque of Algiers

The mosque was originally a project of the former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He wanted it to be his legacy and to be called the “Abdelaziz Bouteflika Mosque,” much as Mosque Hassan II did with a mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. That mosque, named after the former king of Morocco—Algeria’s neighbour and regional rival—was once hailed as Africa’s largest.

The protests that swept Algeria in 2019 and led him to resign after 20 years in power stopped Bouteflika from realising his plans, naming the mosque after himself or inaugurating it in February 2019 as scheduled.

The construction of the mosque, along with a major national highway and 1 million housing units, was marred by suspicions of corruption during the Bouteflika era, with suspected kickbacks to contractors then paid to state officials.


The Gaurdian

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