Thought to be the oldest mosque in Ghana and West Africa, the Larabanga Mosque stands at a modest 8 x 8 metres. There is some controversy over when exactly the mosque was built, and who built it, though it is widely believed that the mosque dates back to 1421. It is believed that an Islamic trader called Ayuba, who was travelling through the area, built the mosque. This unique structure is made primarily of mud and wood and was constructed in the Sudanese style. The mosque has four entrances in total: one each for the village chief, men, women, and the muezzin who leads the call to prayer.
The mosque is located in a small, predominantly Muslim town, called Larabanga, near Damongo in the Western Gonja District in the Northern Region of Ghana. Apart from the obvious role as prayer grounds for Muslims, the ancient mosque also serves as a place of pilgrimage to the Muslim communities in the country. Worshippers will gather on important religious days to pray together and listen to readings from the Qur'an inside this ancient structure. Many of the communities in the regions of Northern Ghana are Muslim. The religion of Islam first entered Africa through Egypt in the 10th Century AD and progressed through the West and South at the same time as the trans-Saharan slave and gold trade.
The Larabanga Mosque is often referred to as the "Mecca of West Africa" due to the significance it holds. It has survived for centuries despite inclement weather and poorly executed reconstruction projects. By the 1970s, the mosque had badly deteriorated and was in need of reconstruction. A reconstruction crew came in and applied cement to the walls to strengthen them, however the mixture allowed moisture inside the ancient wooden beams. This allowed a termite infestation to destroy the beams, and a storm shortly followed which lead to the collapse of the weakened minaret (the tower). With support from multiple organisations, local artisans were employed to fix the mistakes. The local community carefully removed the cement and reapplied a mud paste much like what would have been used 550 years prior.
Back in 2021, our Co-founder and Head of Adventure, Bee, had the opportunity to visit the Larabanga Mosque alongside one of our artisans and good friend, Agana. She says; "I have always wanted to visit The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali but Mali is sadly not very safe so when I visited Ghana last year and made my way up to Mole National Park I noticed on the map that we would passthrough Larabanga home to another, much smaller but just as stunning architecturally rammed earth Mosque situated in this small town. I was accompanied by Agana, who co-ordinates the weaving groups we work with and his uncle who shared my excitement as they had never visited either. We were shown around by expert guide, Mousa, who explained the history with great feeling and insight. Standing next to the cool white walls of the this very significant cultural structure built in 1421 I felt a sense of awe and happiness that I was lucky enough to visit this ancient place of peace and prayer."