West African Notes

West Africa’s Notable Structures

The more recently built ecumenical and state owned edifices have become some of the tourism fascinations found in major cities of West Africa. Along with old and new sculpted monuments of people who were prominent in different ways or of objects that are significant relics or modern art, urban centres and cities in West Africa have their share of appeal to those who appreciate these forms of tourist attractions.


The largest mud brick or adobe building in the World and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, with definite Islamic influences. The mosque is located in the city of Djenne, Mali on the flood plain of the Bani River. The first mosque on the site was built around the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. As well as being the centre of the community of Djenne, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Africa. Along with the "Old Towns of Djenne" it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. The actual date of construction of the first mosque in Djenné is unknown, but dates as early as 1200 and as late as 1330 have been suggested. The earliest document mentioning the mosque is al-Sadi’s Tarikh al-Sudan which gives the early history, presumably from the oral tradition as it existed in the mid seventeenth century.


A Roman Catholic minor basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, the administrative capital of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The basilica was constructed between 1985 and 1989 at a cost of $300 million. The design of the dome and encircled plaza are clearly inspired by those of the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican City, although it is not an outright replica. The basilica is not a cathedral. The nearby Cathedral of Saint Augustine is the principal place of worship and seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Yamoussoukro. Guinness World Records lists it as the largest church in the world, having surpassed the previous record holder, St. Peter's Basilica, upon completion. It can accommodate 18,000 worshippers, compared to 60,000 for St. Peter's.


This is Africa’s oldest stone church south of the Sahara and is in fact the third oldest in Africa. The first foundation stone was laid in 1809 and the building was completed in 1816. It is also known as the ‘Mount Zion of Sierra Leone’ overlooking the beautiful village of Regent.


At one hundred and fifty meters in height the Monument to African Renaissance dominates the skyline of the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Its scale is quite breath-taking: new monuments of this size are rare and this is the largest statue in Africa. Designed by Pierre Goudiaby, it is situated on the most western tip of the continent and, it was hoped, would become Africa’s most instantly recognizable monument – a kind of Statue of Liberty for the new millennia (and a good size bigger).



Independence was given to Togo in 1960 and the movement towards independence was started by women, when the women who ran market stalls started to protest against the high taxes imposed by the French colonialists. The statue in independence square represents a woman holding a torch, and this torch is lit every year on the anniversary of independence to commemorate the women who fought for it.


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