The amazing Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque is impressive representative of the traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture, most likely – the largest building in this style in Burkina Faso. It was built in the end of the 19th century as a result of political deal between local king and Islamic religious leader.

Second city of Burkina Faso

The second largest city in Burkina Faso is Bobo-Dioulasso. In many respects it is more fascinating than the capital Ouagadougou, it has richer cultural life and architecture. A smaller settlement has existed here since the 11th century, the current city developed since the late 19th century.

Local, animistic religions are still active here but step by step, since the late 18th century Islam is coming to this part of the world.


The construction of Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque was a result of a deal in local politics.

At the end of the 19th century local kingdom of Sya (old name of Bobo Dioulasso is Sya) was in grave danger: forces of the hostile king of Kenedougou (in present-day Mali) Tieba Traoré advanced on the capital of Sya. King of Sya was desperately looking for assistance and found it – Islamic religious leader Almamy Sidiki Sanou was ready to help, but only if the king of Sya would build a mosque in Bobo Dioulasso.

King of Kenedougou was stopped some 30 km from the capital and kingdom of Sya was saved. Mosque was built soon after and, reportedly, defeated the king of Kenedougou was among the builders.

The exact date of construction is not known – some say that it was built in 1880, there are mentioned also such years as 1882, 1883 and 1893.

Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque
Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque / Marco Fumasoni, / CC BY 2.0

Mosque in Sudano-Sahelian style

In Bobo Dioulasso are located several monuments of Sudano-Sahelian architecture – the traditional architecture which is characteristic in this part of the world. These amazing buildings were created from locally available materials: mud and some wood.

Sudano-Sahelian architecture is characterized by rounded, soft forms and wooden "sticks" protruding from the walls. These sticks are needed to maintain the building: repairs are needed almost every year.

Just like the much better known Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali, Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque is adorned with numerous pilasters. There are two taller towers – minarets – as well.

Interior of the mosque is dark (there are electrical light and fans though), austere, although trunks of mahogany are used for ceiling.

Men have prayer hall at the front, women – in the backside.

Visitors may enter it and even climb on the rooftop in certain hours. The mosque is well maintained. Unfortunately, cement was used for repairs lately and the building looks worse than before.

Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 11.1778 N 4.2959 W
Categories: Islamic shrines
Values: Art, Architecture, History
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Africa, Burkina Faso, Hauts-Bassins, centre of Bobo Dioulasso
Architecture style: Sudano-Sahelian
Age: 1882 (1883?)
Religion: Islam

Video of Bobo Dioulasso Grand Mosque

Benjamin Kafka, October 2009

Landmarks of Burkina Faso

House in Tiébélé, Burkina Faso
House in Tiébélé / GuideStephane, / CC BY-SA 3.0

This large country is comparatively little known but nevertheless – charming and with numerous interesting mysteries. Most interesting landmarks in Burkina Faso are archaeological monuments and traditional architecture.

Islamic shrines

Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Place for worship in Islam is called mosque. Mosques serve also for education, news exchange, dispute settling.

Initially, in the 7th century mosques were unpretentious, large halls for gatherings. Over the time, as Islam was spreading, there developed diverse, locally adapted architectural forms of mosques.

Recommended books

Butabu: Adobe Architecture of West Africa

Many think that sub-Saharan African architecture is little more than mud huts. Mud, yes–but certainly not huts. Instead, these adobe buildings, many of them enormous, show sublime sculptural beauty, variety, ingenuity, and originality. In the Sahal region of western Africa–Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso–people have been constructing earthen buildings for centuries.

Spectacular Vernacular: The Adobe Tradition

Spectacular Vernacular: The Adobe Tradition celebrates the beauty, variety, and efficiency of traditional adobe architecture in West Africa, Southwest Asia, and the American Southwest. In the severe desert climates of these areas, centuries of working with mud in the construction of homes, mosques, and whole villages have given rise to a remarkable range of styles and forms as visually stunning as any fabled city of myth and imagination – or any postmodern metropolis.

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