By shoring up its walls, residents of the city of Djenne participate in yearly rendering of the ancient Great Mosque, the centuries-old epicentre of religious and cultural life in Mali.
Like every year, thousands of people gathered in the historic city of Djenne last Sunday to take part in the annual mud-plastering ceremony of the majestic Great Mosque, the largest mud building on earth.
The entire community renders the unique mosque with banco – a mixture of soil, water, rice bran, shea butter and baobab powder – which protects the building from both erosion, caused by torrential rains, and cracks and fissures inflicted by hot weather.
The residents of various neighbourhoods compete to finish first.
The winning team usually gets the award of 50,000 CFA, which is equivalent to $85.
Even though the magnificent example of West African Islamic architecture was constructed in around the 13th century, the Great Mosque that we see today was completed in 1907.
The city of Djenne along with Timbuktu played a crucial role in the expansion of Islam deep into the African continent. Starting from the 13th century, the city became a commercial hotspot as it was linked to key trade routes stretching from the shores of West Africa all the way to the Mediterranean coast and the Middle East.
As the merchant caravans and increasing mobility of people brought a significant amount of wealth to the entire region, the scholars and scientists who set up Islamic schools and education centres transformed the city into an intellectual hub in West Africa.
As the city rose, the Great Mosque became the epicentre of religious and cultural life in Djenne and across Mali.
Since then, every single year, the people of Djenne gather to keep their rich Islamic tradition alive.