Mosque Design Elements
A mosque, at its most basic, is an enclosed space with a particular liturgical orientation: the holy city of Mecca, and the Ka'ba itself. As an enclosed space, it was initially patterned on the home of the prophet Mohammad, essentially a hypostyle composed of a courtyard surrounded by colonnades adjoining an enclosed colonnaded or arcaded prayer hall. Mosque architecture has developed in a great many directions since that time, but many of the mosques of Mali, such as the great mosque at Djenné, retain this older Arabic hypostyle plan. The mud-brick mosques of Mali fuse the practical and aesthetic requirements of their vernacular architecture (mud bricks, wet earth, and palm beams) with the mosque's most basic architectural elements (prayer hall, courtyard (sahn), prayer niche (mihrab), and minaret) to form a striking Western Sudanese or Sudano-Sahelian style of mosque construction. While the mosques in this collection share these elements, the architects of each structure came to express them in a manner that is both unique and striking.