Mali: Great Mosque of Djenne
The Great Mosque of Djenne is a true wonder of the world and for me was the main reason to visit Mali despite all the warnings from US and UK against it. The mudbrick building dates back to the 13th century and is often considered the best example of the Sudanese Islamic architecture; it is also the largest building in the world made entirely of mud. The bizarre minarets and walls are constructed of special mud bricks and then a layer of mud plaster; the wooden bars sticking from the walls are actually scaffolding that is used for annual repairs after the rain washes and dissolves the mud. It is is totally surreal! I couldn’t shake of the feeling I was a jedi in search of force on the planet Tatooine from Star Wars. And I was the only such tourist jedi in Djenne this day! So scarce the tourism is that I was even allowed to go inside the mosque (non Muslims are banned since 1996), and witness the giant vaults and 99 columns where the prayers occur on Fridays. Besides the mudbrick architecture, there are also beautiful Moroccan-style doors and windows, and the interesting touch of ostrich eggs on top of the pillar columns. You can also climb the rooftops of the adjoining building for more stunning panoramic views.