Monday, February 26, 2024

Algeria inaugurates 'Africa's biggest mosque'

Africa's largest mosque set to open in Algeria's capital - CGTN

Algeria inaugurated on Sunday what it described as "Africa's biggest mosque" and the third-biggest mosque in the world, following over a decade of construction and preparation marred by controversy.

The Great Mosque of Algiers is situated in the capital, with a minaret towering 265 meters (869 feet) high and a large prayer room. 

Algerian state media says the entire facility could host over 120,000 worshippers.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune inaugurated the project on Sunday. 

Ali Mohamed Salabi, the General Secretary of the World Union of Muslim Ulemas said the inauguration would guide Muslims "toward goodness and moderation."

The opening time comes ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, when worshippers traditionally flock to pray together inside mosques.

Why is the mosque controversial?

The mosque was the brainchild of the late, ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was removed following protests in 2019. 

Bouteflika wanted the mosque to be his legacy, similar to Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco, Algeria's neighbor and regional rival.

It was scheduled to be inaugurated in February 2019, but the protests which eventually forced him to step down halted these plans.

The mosque's construction invited wide controversy, amid criticism over the choice of its location, which experts warned was in a fairly earthquake-prone area, as well as suspicions of corruption.

The project's official cost was $898 million (roughly €827 million).

The project started in 2011 by a Chinese construction firm and the planning of Frankfurt-based architects KSP Engel. Engel's website suggests the construction was finalized in 2020.

It is being marketed as the third-biggest mosque worldwide, following the holy mosque in Mecca and the prophet's mosque in Medina, both located in Saudi Arabia.