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Somalia: Fakr ad-Din mosque

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Fakr ad-Din mosque | Somalia | Africa

[Visited: December 2014]

With no up-to-date travel guides to the place, information hard to get by, and very few people who have visited recently, preparing my visit to Mogadishu required a fresh approach. Independent travel is impossible, and I found an agency able to organize the logistics, with proposals of the places to visit. I also did some research myself, and came across a drawing of the oldest mosque of the city, Fakr ad-Din, built in 1269 by the first Sultan of the city. I could find no pictures of it, nor the location; but only a black and white drawing, and found texts about it wondering if the mosque had survived the war at all. It only made my desire to try to find it stronger. At least something must have remained of a building of such importance?

Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): The cones of Fakr ad-Din mosque, one round and one hexagonal, are painted light green

With the name and the drawing of the mosque on my phone, I soon find out that my young guide and older driver do not know about it. I still cannot imagine that it has completely disappeared from the face of the earth. Since I do not know the location, we head for the old town again, to the equally old Arba'a Rukun mosque, and when we see some older men sitting against a wall under a tree, we ask, showing the drawing on my phone. To our surprise, we have actually arrived precisely at the mosque! Walking into a twisting alley and climbing some stairs, we turn around, to find the iconic hexagonal and round cones of the mosque, that appear on my drawing as well - smaller than I had imagined, based on the drawing. An old, green door was locked, but one of the old men takes us to the roof, close to the remarkable cones.

Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): View towards the east with the ruined minaret of Fakr ad-Din mosque

Below us, men are washing their feet in preparation of prayer. I wonder if it is be possible to go inside as well, at which time it appeared that the responsible for the mosque is ill and in hospital. But the old men are proud of their mosque, want me to see it, and go to fetch the guy. He appears quite strong, gladly invites us in to his mosque, and we walk on the soft surface of the prayer carpets. He first shows us the mihrab, with new, white tiles, but inside, an original 13th century plaque with Arabic calligraphy and a date inscription. Outside, we find two old wooden doors, covered in all kinds of seemingly abandoned items. They turn out to be the original doors of the mosque. To me, it seems incredible that they would be treated like this. It seems entirely possible to restore them, and put them back in place. A solitary Moslim is praying in the portal of the mosque. Once outside, our host tells us the incredible story of how Fakr ad-Din mosque was ruthlessly altered by the Italians in 1930. According to him, the mosque originally extended to the sea, but the Italians wanted to construct a road, and just took away much of the prayer hall. We indeed see the ruins of what could well have been the minaret belonging to this mosque. Young guys are playing football on the road, probably unaware that their temporary football field once has been part of the oldest mosque of Mogadishu.

Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): Morning view of the round and hexagonal cone on top of Fakr ad-Din mosque
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): Part of the round cone on the roof of Fakr ad-Din mosque
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): Inside the mihrab of Fakr ad-Din mosque with original decorative elements and dated inscription
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): Entrance door to the mosque, and the two iconic cones on top
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): The green entrance door to Fakr ad-Din mosque
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): Man praying at the southern entrance to the mosque
Picture of Fakr ad-Din mosque (Somalia): The old wooden doors of the mosque are kept in a corner of its compound

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