The Djingareyber Mosque was created when Sultan Kankan Moussa returned from a trip to Mecca, but it was rebuilt between 1570 and 1583 by Imam Al Aqib, the Qadi of Timbuktu. He completed the southern section of the mosque as well as the wall that surrounds the cemetery to the west of it. The tomb of Ahmad al-Mansur is located within the cemetery.
During the French occupation of Mali, the mosque's minaret was destroyed. In 1958, after the country became independent again, the remaining parts of the mosque were classified as historic monuments. They are now all that remains of one of Africa's greatest centers of learning.
Timbuktu was founded in the 13th century by Arabic scholars who came to Mali looking for religious freedom. Over the next several centuries, it became an important center for teaching theology and science. The city's rulers built dozens of mosques to accommodate the growing number of students visiting from all over West Africa.
When the Europeans arrived in the 16th century, they described Timbuktu as the largest and most beautiful city in the world. It was also home to many famous scholars such as Al-Ghazali, who wrote "The Revival of Faith" while living in Timbuktu. However, this great city began to decline after 1791, when the empire ended and its colonies became independent countries.
Two centuries later, in 1570, Qadi al-Aqib ordered that the mosque be demolished and rebuilt on a grander scale. Timbuktu first appears in the Catalan Atlas in 1375, indicating that it had become a commercial center linked to North African towns and had captured Europe's interest. The city became an important trading post for the trans-Saharan trade with Africa's eastern coast.
Timbuktu was an important cultural center before it was destroyed. Many scholars lived there including Al-Ghazali, one of the most influential philosophers of Islam. In 1126, Al-Ghazali published "The Revival of Faith," which argues against the use of reason to justify religious ideas. He believed that only faith could bring people to heaven.
During France's colonial rule from 1892 to 1960, many Islamic buildings were destroyed or damaged. In 1893, the French government granted permission for the destruction of the city's mosques because they were used for storing gunpowder. There are no known images of the destroyed mosques. However, some scholars believe that the Jamaa Mosque and Sankore Mosque can be seen in the background of a photograph taken in 1900.
After independence in 1960, Mali's new government decided not to rebuild the destroyed mosques but instead build new ones. The old mud buildings in Timbuktu were considered unsightly and threatened by erosion so the government hired foreign architects to design new buildings.
According to mythology, the first Great Mosque was built in the 13th century by King Koi Konboro—twenty-sixth Djenne's monarch and its first Muslim sultan (king)—who intended to establish a place of Muslim prayer in town using local materials and traditional design skills. The king's plan did not come to fruition until thirty-three years later, when his great-great-grandson Sultan Alaoui III rebuilt the mosque using stones brought from other sites for comparison. This second Great Mosque stands to this day.
The Great Mosque of Djenne has been listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It is the largest working mosque in Africa. Construction on the Great Mosque of Djenne began in 1013 during the reign of Sultan Ali Ben Khelifa and was completed in 1059. The original structure was likely much more spacious than what remains today. Over time, many Djennese sultans added rooms to their mosques as they became richer through trade. Today, the Great Mosque of Djenne consists of a large courtyard surrounded on three sides by a colonnaded prayer hall with fifty-four pillars. The fourth side is closed by the forest. There are nearly 500 steps leading up to the entrance, which is on the western wall of the mosque compound. Visitors can enter the mosque via two sets of doors: one at the southern end and another at the northern end.