hile China may be the world’s largest atheistic state, that hasn’t stopped it from building one of the world’s biggest places of worship.
The Djamaa El Djazair, or the Great Mosque of Algiers, is set to open soon in the Algerian capital. Covering an area of 400,000 square meters, it is the largest mosque in Africa and the third largest in the world, bigger even than the Great Mosque of Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque of Medina. It was built by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).
The mega-mosque has a total capacity of 120,000 people, far less than the mosques of Mecca and Medina but still good for 11th best in the world. The complex includes a library, fire station, museum, religious school, park, and cultural center. Overlooking its massive golden dome is the world’s tallest minaret with a height of 265 meters.
CSCEC won a bid to build the mosque back in 2011, beating out 14 others contractors. Construction began in 2012 but faced several years of delays owing to a global slump in oil prices. The project was initially estimated to cost $1.3 billion but that budget has long since been overrun with estimates now reaching $2 billion.
The tremendous cost of the project has angered many locals who see the mosque as a vanity project for former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who was finally deposed earlier this month following months of protests after holding onto the presidency for nearly 20 years.
Some say that the mosque was built as a jab at Morocco, which formerly boasted Africa’s largest mosque, and that the money could have been better spent improving the country’s public health care system. Petitions have gone up online calling for the Djama El Djazair to be transformed into Algeria’s biggest hospital.
For its part, CSCEC is pleased with its work on the mosque, casting the structure as a once-in-a-millennium kind of building.
“In Algeria, it is said every one thousand years, a great mosque will be built. Since the independence of Algeria from the sixties, they haven’t built a great mosque,” Zhou Sheng, CSCEC General Manager in Algeria, told CGTN. “So this is a historic mark for the country and for all the people. We are really proud of that.”