Algeria inaugurates Africa's largest mosque after years of delays

The Great Mosque of Algiers can accommodate 120,000 worshippers and has the world's tallest minaret

Built by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the Great Mosque of Algiers hosted its first public prayers in 2020. AFP
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Algeria inaugurated Africa's largest mosque – the third largest in the world – on Sunday, after years of upheaval.

The Great Mosque of Algiers is only smaller than the mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Built by a Chinese construction firm in the 2010s, the mosque features the world's tallest minaret – measuring 265 metres – and a prayer area that can accommodate 120,000 people.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune inaugurated the mosque in a mainly ceremonial event. It has been open to international tourists and state visitors to Algeria for roughly five years. An earlier ceremony was delayed.

The mosque had hosted its first public prayers in October 2020, a year and a half after construction was completed. But the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs suspended Friday prayers at the mosque a month later due to breaches of the country's Covid-19 measures.

The China State Construction Engineering Corporation, a Chinese-state backed firm responsible for projects in Africa, led construction of the mosque, along with a motorway and one million houses.

Each project was marred by suspicions of corruption during the presidency of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was in power between 1999 and 2019. It was alleged bribes were paid to state officials.

The inauguration will make it possible for worshippers to perform nightly prayers at the mosque during the month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10.

Its modernist design contains Arab and North African flourishes to honour Algerian tradition and culture, as well as a helicopter landing pad and a library that can house up to one million books. The outside courtyard overlooks the Bay of Algiers.

The project’s official cost was $898 million. Some Algerians have expressed discontent with the amount of money spent on the project, saying it could have paid for building four hospitals.

The mosque was originally a project of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who designed it to be the largest in Africa. He wanted it to be his legacy and called “Abdelaziz Bouteflika Mosque” much like Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco.

That mosque, named after the former King of Morocco was once marketed as Africa's largest.

The Great Mosque of Algiers was originally completed on April 28, 2019, at a time of political uncertainty in Algeria. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who signed off the construction, resigned in April after public anger at millions spent on large projects such as the Great Mosque.

Updated: February 26, 2024, 10:32 AM