The trading town of Djenné is located on an island in the Niger inland delta. According to itypeusa, your inner city is built in traditional clay construction and is reminiscent of the cultural heyday of the Mali and Songhai empires. The jewel of the city is the great clay mosque, which was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. In the nearby Jenne-jeno archaeological site there are remains of a pre-Islamic culture.
|Official title:||Djenné, Islamic city and pre-Islamic cities|
|Cultural monument:||Djenné-Djenno, 3 km southeast of today’s Djenné, origin of the city of Djenné, the “little Dia”, so called in memory of the city of Dia in the east of the Ghanaian Empire; on the “gold route” to Timbuktu former transshipment point on the central Niger Inland Delta; Trading place for rice, henna, indigo, millet, dried fish; Buildings in traditional clay construction in the Sudanese style, preserved in Djenné in 2000, as evidence of the economic heyday of the Mali and Songhai empires, among others. the 20 m high Great Mosque with three massive, tapered and stepped minaret towers rising towards the market side, as well as residential buildings (16th-19th centuries) for traders and craftsmen east of the market square|
|Location:||Djenné and Djenné-Djenno (Djoboro), northeast of Bamako, southwest of Timbuktu|
|Meaning:||a former trans-Saharan trade hub and spiritual center for the spread of Islam|
|around 250 BC Chr||first settlement of Djenné-Djenno|
|450-850||Expansion of the Djenné-Djennoum settlement|
|1180||Conversion of the king of Djenné, (Koi) Komboro, to Islam|
|around 1230-35||Sundjata Keita first king of Mali, foundation of the Mali empire, to which Djenné also belongs|
|around 1400||Djenné-Djenno a ghost town|
|1473||After seven years of siege Djenné was conquered by the ruler of the Songhai Empire, Sonni Ali Ber|
|1512||Report by Leo Africanus on the Djenné trading center|
|1828||Report of the French Explorer René Caillié on Djenné’s central role in the Trans-Saharan trade|
|1907-09||New construction of the Great Mosque based on the model from the 15th century.|
|1977||Excavations in Djenné-Djenno|
|1994||with the support of the National Geographic Society excavations in Djenné-Djenno|
|November 2009||Collapse of the south tower of the east facade of the Great Mosque; Reconstruction funded by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture|
Elegant mud castles defy floods and desert seas
The completely overloaded station wagon makes its way through the sluggishly flowing last autumn floods, honking loudly. Ocher and brown tones determine the landscape, and even the rounded towers of the emerging city vary this color theme.
Smells and sounds from the bank of the fertile Bani that flows around the city are quickly forgotten when you dive into the market district. The visitor is immediately drawn into the atmosphere of a medieval artisan town that has changed little for five centuries. Repellent mud walls hide the courtyards of large families, but also provide coolness. Some alleys are just wide enough to let two pedestrians pass, but high enough to hide the afternoon sun. The clay masses store moisture and make life in the alleys pleasant.
The dyers and tailors still live in the southeast of the old town. They traditionally draw abstract patterns on coarse cotton fabrics that are dyed several times with mud sediments. Neighboring tailors use it to make blankets and outerwear. Where today modern shops present their goods between wooden ceiling supports, the pantries and warehouses used to be on the ground floor of the mud houses. The serfs and servants lived on the second floor, the merchants and patriarchs resided with their families on the top floor.
Since the adventurous French researcher René Caillié was the first modern European to roam the legendary Djenné in 1828, the wealth and influence of the townspeople have declined. But the construction principle of the clay architecture, which René Caillié already reported, remained largely unchanged: a frame made of wooden poles and crossbeams is being created on the building site, which serves as a support for the clay mass and protrudes in some places even after completion of the house. The protruding struts are not only building decorations, but also serve as climbing aids during the repair work necessary after each rainy phase. How ephemeral clay is becomes clear on the edge of the old town:
The Great Mosque proves how Sudanese adobe buildings can hold their own against progressive weathering with regular maintenance. Three “spiked” minarets point to the sky, dozen of battlements line the roof of the church. In its 700-year history, Djenné’s landmark achieved a reputation as an intellectual and scientific center that reached as far as Europe. In its current form, it was only rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century after a previous building had been destroyed in unrest decades earlier.
Much less unknown, however, is the meaning of Alt-Djenné (Djenné-Djenno). Its most important ruins can be found a few kilometers south of the mosque. The oldest pre-Islamic settlement remains from around 250 BC are hidden six meters deep under rubble. American archaeologists have unearthed amazing things here since the 1970s. Already 2000 years ago there were contacts to the Roman Mediterranean area, as gemstones prove. More than a millennium ago the merchants already had trade relations with gold and copper mines in West Africa, but also with countries north of the Sahara.
If you take enough time to explore the scattered remains of the old settlements, you will see how much the architecture and organization resemble that of the new Djenné. The floods of the Bani do not bring as many fish these days, they wash up less arable soil and less often lead cargo pirogues to the city. But despite climatic and political upheavals, Djenné has been able to maintain its character over the centuries.