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Algeria Opens Africa’s Biggest Mosque Despite Political Delays and Budget Issues

Algeria inaugurated a massive mosque on its Mediterranean coastline on Sunday, after years of political turmoil turned the project from a symbol of state-sponsored power and devotion to one of delays and cost overruns.

The Great Mosque of Algiers, built by a Chinese construction group in the 2010s, has the world’s tallest minaret at 869 feet (265 meters). The prayer chamber of the world’s third largest mosque, as well as the largest outside of Islam’s holiest cities, can accommodate 120,000 people.

Its contemporary design incorporates Arab and North African flourishes to honor Algerian tradition and culture, as well as a helicopter landing pad and a library capable of holding up to 1 million books.

The inauguration will urge Muslims “toward goodness and moderation,” according to Ali Mohamed Salabi, General Secretary of the World Union of Muslim Ulemas.

Propagating a moderate style of Islam has been a top focus in Algeria since government forces crushed an Islamist-led rebellion in the 1990s, resulting in a horrific civil war.

Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune opened the mosque, keeping his commitment to open it with pomp and ceremony. The occasion, however, was primarily ceremonial. The mosque has been open to international tourists and state visitors to Algeria for almost five years. An earlier ceremony was postponed.

The date allows the mosque to officially open to the public in time for nightly prayers during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that begins next month.

Aside from its massive size, the mosque is also notorious for the delays and controversies that plagued its seven-year construction, notably the choice of site, which experts said was seismically dangerous.

The state disputed this in a press release published on Sunday on the state news agency’s website, APS. Despite the delays and cost overruns, the project never stopped infuriating Algerians, with many claiming they’d rather have four hospitals erected across the country.

The project’s official budget was $898 million.

Former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika designed the mosque, which is Africa’s largest. He intended it to be his legacy and named it “Abdelaziz Bouteflika Mosque,” similar to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco.

That mosque, named after the former King of Morocco, Algeria’s neighbor and regional adversary, was long touted as Africa’s largest.

However, the demonstrations that rocked Algeria in 2019 and forced him to quit after 20 years in power prevented Bouteflika from carrying out his plans, including naming the mosque after himself and inaugurating it in February 2019, as anticipated.

During the Bouteflika administration, the mosque, a major national roadway, and a million new housing units were all linked to allegations of corruption, with contractors allegedly receiving kickbacks that were then given to state officials.

Written by PH

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