A Day in the Life at the Great Mosque of Djenné

How the world’s largest mud-brick structure is built every year

Instruments for Africa

Internal courtyard of the Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

It is four o’clock in the morning, long before the sunrise has painted the Great Mosque of Djenne gold on its eastern facade. The muezzin’s call rings out for the first prayer of the day: ‘Allahu Akbar!

Praying at the Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

It is normally only the most pious who assemble this early, but this morning, only once a year, the whole town crowds around the mosque to catch a glimpse as one of the elders amongst the Djenné masons slap on the first handful of mud... 

Praying leafletsInstruments for Africa

...and the Imam prays the blessing which marks the beginning of the joyous festival which is the ‘Crepissage’ or the ‘mud plastering’ of the Mosque. 

Festival at the Grand Mosque of Djenné 2Instruments for Africa

A great roar is heard from the crowd as the young men from the eleven neighbourhoods of Djenne launch forward in unison, carrying their baskets of mud on their heads, and competing for this year’s prize. 

Men relax after working on the plastering of the Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

Which neighbourhood team will complete their section first? 

The Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

What could be the reason for such exuberance at this time of the morning?

The Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

This great building – the largest adobe edifice in the world, needs a new layer of mud every year to protect it from the violent storms which batters the town during the rainy season.

Man applies clay to the pinnacles of the Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

Last night the youths of Djenne slept little – the festivities have been going on for a day or two already as everyone has collected the mud from the river and deposited it in big mounds in front of the mosque. 

Women taking part in the plastering of the mosqueInstruments for Africa

This morning the young girls of Djenne are hurrying back and forth to the river, collecting water in buckets and calabashes and throwing it on to the mountain of mud... 

Malian woman during the plastering of the Great Mosque of DjennéInstruments for Africa

...everyone slips and slides, laughs, and teases each other – no one escapes being smothered in mud – it is in fact considered shameful not to be…

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