The Larabanga Mosque is a mosque built in the Sudanese architectural style in the Islamic town of Larabanga, Ghana. It is the oldest mosque in Ghana and one of the oldest mosques in West Africa.
Larabanga Mosque: the Oldest Mosque in Ghana Is over 600 Years Old
The mosque which is often referred to as the “Mecca of West Africa” has undergone several restoration several times since it was founded in 1421.
The mosque has an old Quran, believed by the locals to have been given as a gift from heaven in 1650 to Yidan Barimah Bramah, the Imam at the time, as a result of his prayers.
The mosque which was built using local materials and construction techniques, has two tall towers in pyramidal shape, one for the mihrab which faces towards Mecca forming the facade on the east and the other as a minaret in the northeast corner. These are buttressed by twelve bulbous shaped structures, which are fitted with timber elements.
According to a legend, in 1421, an Islamic trader named Ayuba had a dream while staying here, near a “Mystic Stone“, instructing him to build a mosque. Strangely, when he awoke, he found that the foundations were already in place and he proceeded to construct the mosque until it was completed.
The baobab tree next to the mosque today is reputed to mark the site of Ayuba’s grave. The townsfolk of Larabanga supposedly depend on the leaves and stem of this baobab tree for healing of ailments.
The mosque which was originally founded 600 years ago suffered substantial damage in the 1970’s after an abysmal attempt was made by the locals to protect the exterior from wind and rain damage using a mixture of cement and sand.
The restoration attempt resulted in part of the mosque collapsing and during the repair work it caused some distortions of the structural elements of the mosque
Owing to the effect of strong winds and rains on the walls, the mosque has needed several renovations and restoration work which over the years have altered some of its exterior designs.
In 2002 after a severe storm destroyed part of the exterior structure, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed the mosque on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, this gave way for THE American Express Company, a global travel, financial and network services provider, to fund the full restoration of the Larabanga Mosque through the World Monuments Watch programme of the New York-based World Monuments Fund (WMF).
The restoration process involved removal of the earlier cement plaster from the surfaces of the mosque, reconstructing the minaret and the mihrab, replacing the wooden structural components, and replastering the interior and exterior surfaces in the traditional way.
Today, residents in the Islamic town of Larabanga are supported in handicraft and tourism projects to generate funds not only for meeting the maintenance expenses of the mosque but also to improve the economic conditions of the people.