Architecture of the Middle Niger River in Mali:

Conformity, Innovation, and Diversity



Mopti is a city of transport and trade built on islands where the Bani and Niger Rivers meet. It can be reached from the mainland by causeways. Ferries are used to commute among the islands or to other more distant points along the Niger River. Mopti may very well be the most pleasant city in Mali, and is often called the ‘Venice’ of Mali.

Like the Great Mosque of Djenne, the mosque of Mopti is a monumental example of the Sudanic style. Also, like its counterpart in Djenne, it has been widely photographed and remains a principal attraction. The current mosque dates to 1935 and is a renovation of an earlier one from 1908, or just about the time of the building of the current Mosque at Djenne.

The Great Mosque of Mopti is embedded in its urban setting. Its western side is on a main road, and its main entrance (on the southern side) faces the same road and a small open square. Its kibla consists of three prominent minarets that face east, and these towers are repeated on the opposite or western side. The face of the principal entrance in the south is repeated on the north side. This arrangement of towers and entrances gives the mosque a noticeable symmetry. The best views of its beauty and castle-like form can be appreciated from a distance, where all six of its minarets can be seen.

The Great Mosque of Mopti looks like the ones at Djenne and at San, but it differs from them in important ways. Mopti also has a more polished and refined appearance, with surfaces looking more like concrete than mud. The vertical lines and edges are sharp and defined. The projecting timbers are mostly grouped in bundles of six or seven and are spaced at regular intervals so that the building has an almost perfect appearance. These toron must be shaped, planned, and carefully executed by professionals.