The Grande Mosquée of Bobo-Dioulasso had been firmly on my mind once I decided to visit Burkina Faso. I had only a vague idea of what it would look like, as I never had seen a picture of it, and I managed to reach the second largest city of the country without an idea what I was about to see, until I saw a calendar at the reception of the hotel. I quickly looked away. I tested my patience; I arrived in the heat of the day, and wanted to postpone my visit until better light would be there; I had read that seeing the sun set on the mosque would be the best time. I even walked a few blocks extra, to approach the mosque from the other side, and sure enough, when I was walking south on a lively street, I saw a white minaret sticking out above the houses. I had expected the mosque to be surrounded by walls, but instead, I walked straight into it from the street. A small courtyard on my right where some kids were playing, women selling mangoes on the other side of the street, and several men dressed in the typical muslim robes were sitting under the trees.
Even though I was quickly approached by a youth trying to sell me a guided tour through the oldest neighbourhood of Bobo-Dioulasso, my eyes were glued to the mosque. Yes, I had seen the famous adobe mosque of Djenné, but this was different. Adobe spires looked like ribs of a giant body, with two minarets towering high above it. All over, wooden beams are sticking out of the structure, largely defining its look. To my surprise, another guide approached me and invited me in; a teacher of the koranic school related to the Dioulassoba mosque, he doubles as a guide to the famous muslim structure of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso. I removed my shoes, and we stepped inside the female quarters of the mosque, and the male section. The ceiling was low, and my guide often warned me to watch out for my head. We reached the mihrab, and from there, the stairs leading up to the roof. Here I was, thinking that entry to the mosque was not possible, sitting on its very roof! It allowed me a great view of the two minarets of the Grande Mosquée of Bobo-Dioulasso. The guide and I had a pleasant, open talk about religions, and found out we differed only a few months in age. He urged me several times to take more pictures, just as I was trying to show constraint in doing so - the picturesque mosque just calls for it.
After visiting a separate, dark space for reflection, and picking up my shoes, I was invited to circle the mosque, and I was happy to do so. I circled the building several times, sometimes sitting down and observing life around the mosque. At the western side of the mosque, there are some big trees, and their shadow prevented the setting sun to fully reach the white-washed building. I waited until the call for prayer sounded, and the faithful entered the mosque for prayer. The next morning, I made sure to be there before sunrise, to find out that that is actually the better time to visit. There is no obstruction for the rays of the sun to reach the jewel of Bobo-Dioulasso, and they give a warm glow to the unique building. Like the evening before, I walked around the building, and could not get enough of it - until the light started to be too harsh. I had been explained that while the wooden beams need to be replaced every 40-50 years, the structure itself is as it was constructed in 1880 (or is it 1893?), and that while before, it had an earthen colour, it has been painted white ever since a football championship was held in Burkina Faso. The paint is fading, though, and slowly, you can see the original earthen colour re-appear, because of deposits of sand and dust. I ended up being invited to help paint the mosque - an interesting option that I will certainly keep in mind!
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Dioulassoba Mosque (Burkina Faso). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Dioulassoba Mosque. Read more about this site.