The Great Mosque of Tlemcen town is one of the outstanding instances of Almoravid architecture. It is considered as being a major religious edifice in Algeria.
The town is the capital of the province bearing the same name. The province is located in northwestern Algeria. It is situated inland in the middle of the region.
What to See
The mosque is an irregularly shaped pentagon. It measures 60 x 50 m. The prayer hall is comprised of 13 aisles parallel. These are perpendicular to the qibla wall. This makes the structure akin to other T plan mosques in North Africa. These aisles are comprised of horseshoe arches. The design is such that it sets an interior spatial hierarchy.
The lobed arches would become influential; other mosques would soon implement this feature. The nave or central aisle go to the mihrab and was always given special and unique treatments.
The dome apex has a star with a 16-side lantern. This is adorned with muqarnas. The surface between the ribs is made of carved plaster. They are in the form of carved green vegetal decor. The dome square base is set in a maqsura.
The Great Mosque of Tlemcen was first constructed in 1082. The building was constructed under the rule of Yusuf ibn Tashfin. The mosque was expanded greatly under Ali ibn Yusuf, his son. The date for the reconstruction has been put at 1136.
The founder of the Abdalwadid dynasty, Sultan Yaghmoracen (1236-1283), installed a part with a minaret. A dome was also installed. This took place in the 13th century. An Islamic court and university used to be right beside the mosque.
The cost of taxis starts at 600 dinar. That is about $4. In some cases, the driver may not have a meter or it is “broken”. In this case, you should negotiate with the driver.
A couple of the bays were fitted with domes. The more prominent dome was installed on 16 interlacing ribs that form a star-like pattern. The ribs were configured by finely cut bricks.
In terms of construction, it is similar to the method used for the I-Jami’ Mosque of Isfahan in Iran. The ribs intersect several times to make a multi-pointed star at the dome apex.
The Great Mosque of Tlemcen is often visited by pilgrims and religious devotees. But it can also be admired as a piece of splendid architecture.