Algerian Officials Inaugurate the Largest Mosque in Africa

Spanning nearly 70 acres, the $898 million project faced years of delays amid political controversy

The Great Mosque of Algiers (or the Djamaa El-Djazair) has the world’s tallest minaret at 869 feet. Fazil Abd Erahim / Anadolu via Getty Images

After seven years of construction, Algeria has inaugurated the largest mosque in Africa. The Great Mosque of Algiers (or the Djamaa El-Djazair) is also the third-largest in the world, eclipsed only by the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Standing on the Mediterranean coastline, the structure boasts the world’s tallest minaret, which looms at 869 feet, and a sprawling prayer room capable of hosting 120,000 worshippers, reports the Associated Press (AP).

The mosque spans nearly 70 acres. Decorated with wood and marble, it features “Arab and North African flourishes,” as Al Jazeera writes. “It reportedly has a helicopter landing pad and a library capable of housing up to one million books.”

Throughout the 2010s, a state-owned Chinese firm oversaw the construction of the building, which was designed by the German architectural firm KSP Engel, according to the Art Newspaper’s Chinma Johnson-Nwosu. The project was an expensive endeavor, ultimately costing $898 million.

Though the mosque opened for prayer in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the official inauguration, which took place last month, according to Business Insider’s Chinedu Okafor. The Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, led the opening event, welcoming the public to the site ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

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

The structure was originally the brainchild of Algeria’s former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who hoped the ambitious project would cement his legacy in Algerian history. He planned to name the site the “Abdelaziz Bouteflika Mosque,” mirroring the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco, which is named after Hassan II.

His endeavor, however, was largely criticized as a “vanity project,” according to Al Jazeera. After two decades in power, Bouteflika stepped down from his role in 2019 amid mass protests. The mosque’s anticipated inauguration date of February 2019 was pushed back—and the name never stuck.

Such delays became routine in the years that followed. Experts worried the mosque was built on a site prone to earthquakes, though Algerian officials have since denied those claims.

The construction of the mosque—as well as several other large-scale development projects—was also “marred by suspicions of corruption during the Bouteflika era, with suspected kickbacks to contractors then paid to state officials,” as the AP writes. Amid mounting controversy, many critics maintained their disapproval of the project, arguing they would “rather have four hospitals built throughout the country.”

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