Historic Mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa

From Timbuktu to Zanzibar


This book is the first comprehensive synthesis on mosques in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing together sites from more than twenty states from sub-Saharan Africa; and more than 285 monuments, from the IXth to the XIXth centuries. This monograph is divided into three large geographical areas, from the earthen mosques of West Africa, to the Nile Valleys and the Horn of Africa, and to the Indian Ocean shores and Swahili coral stone mosques. This book is a statement that African mosques demonstrate cultural links with North Africa, Arabia, Persia and India, these monuments are unique in the history of Islamic architecture, and they belong to our World Heritage.

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Stéphane Pradines, (Ph.D. in Islamic Archaeology from Sorbonne University, Paris, 2001), is Professor of Islamic Art, Architecture and Archaeology at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, Aga Khan University, London and an archaeologist working in Egypt, East Africa, Pakistan and the Maldives. He is a specialist of Muslim warfare in the medieval Middle East and Muslim trade in the Indian Ocean. Professor Pradines is the Editor-in-Chief of the Open Access Journal of Muslim Material Cultures. Prior to joining the Aga Khan University in 2012, he oversaw the Islamic Archaeology Department at the French Institute in Cairo. His publications include Fortifications et urbanisation en Afrique orientale, 2004, Gedi, une cité portuaire swahilie, 2010, Earthen Architecture in Muslim Cultures: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives, 2018, and Ports and Forts of the Muslims. Coastal Military Architecture, from the Arab Conquest to the Ottoman Period, 2020.
Preface: On Vocabulary and Dates
List of Figures

Introduction: A Survey of Islamic Architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa

1 The Mosques of the Niger Valleys
 1.1 Introduction: The So-Called “Sudanese” Mosques
 1.2 Historiography of Research on the Mosques of the Niger Valleys
 1.3 The History of the Great West African Kingdoms
 1.4 Commerce and Islam in West Africa
 1.5 Technology and Construction
 1.6 Architectural Characteristics of the Mosques of the Niger Valleys
 1.7 Regional Groups of Mosques in the Niger Valleys
 1.8 History and Chronology of the Mosques of the Niger Valleys

2 The Mosques from the Horn of Africa to the Valleys of the Nile
 2.1 The Mosques of the Ethiopian High Plateau and the Somali Plains
 2.2 The African Mosques of the Red Sea
 2.3 The Mosques of the Nile Valleys, from Nubia to Darfur

3 The Mosques of the Indian Ocean Coast
 3.1 The Swahilis, a Cultural Model of Multiple Origins
 3.2 Historiography of Research on the Swahili Mosques
 3.3 The History of the East Coast of Africa
 3.4 Trade and Islam in the Indian Ocean
 3.5 Technology and Construction of the Swahili Mosques
 3.6 Morphology of the Swahili Mosques
 3.7 The Decorative Programme of the Swahili Mosques
 3.8 Regional Groups and the Chronology of the Swahili Mosques
 3.9 The Swahili Mosques of the Thirteenth Century
 3.10 The Swahili Mosques of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
 3.11 Portuguese Domination and the Style of Lamu, Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries
 3.12 The Swahili Mosques of the Nineteenth Century

Epilogue: The Mosques of Sub-Saharan Africa in the History of Islamic Architecture
Annexe 1: Historical Chart of the Main Dynasties and Kingdoms in Sub-Saharan Africa and Their Neighbours Annexe 2: Inventory of Historical Mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa Listed by Contemporary States
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