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News: Tigray embraces Turkish partnership for the restoration of Africa’s oldest mosque

Situated in Wukro, 59 kilometers from the regional capital, Mekelle, the Al-Nejashi Mosque endured significant bombardment in 2020 amidst the two-year war in Tigray (Photo: middleeasteye.net)

Addis Abeba – The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has extended an offer to the Tigray Tourism Bureau, proposing to spearhead the restoration of the Al-Nejashi Mosque, a historic structure that suffered damage amidst the Tigray war.

Atsbha Gebreegziabher, head of the Tigray Tourism Bureau, confirmed the regional government’s positive reception to the appeal, signaling potential collaboration for the mosque’s rehabilitation.

In an interview with Addis Standard, Atsbha revealed that the Turkish Embassy in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, reached out to the Tigray Tourism Bureau in October 2023 with a proposal to assist in the restoration of the Al-Nejashi Mosque, a site of significant historical heritage. “We have welcomed and accepted their request,” Atsbha stated.

He emphasized the need for regional discussions to determine the extent and methods of conservation, which he regards as critical considerations in the restoration of historical sites.

Atsbha disclosed that TIKA’s restoration of the Al-Nejashi Mosque, planned in three phases, was interrupted when the team had to return to their country mid-project due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the work incomplete.

He emphasized that upon resuming the restoration work, it is crucial to clarify the project’s scope—whether to pick up where it was left off or to focus solely on repairing the damage caused by the Tigray war. “Additionally, discussions are needed on the restoration methodologies to ensure the preservation of the site’s authenticity, integrity, and sustainability,” he said.

Located in northern Ethiopia, in Wukro, 59 kilometers from Mekelle, the regional capital, stands the Al-Nejashi Mosque, esteemed as possibly the earliest mosque in Africa.

Shek Reja Nuru, the head of the Al-Nejashi Mosque, informed Addis Standard that the mosque first came under bombardment in November 2020 and was subsequently pillaged by Eritrean troops.

According to him, three civilians, including the mosque’s secretary, lost their lives while seeking refuge within the mosque’s walls.

Shek Reja disclosed that Eritrean troops plundered ancient Arabic stone manuscripts and various mosque furnishings, including a solar panel—a gift from Turkey—as well as bakery ovens, generators, and assorted machinery. “Additionally, several copies of the holy Quran were burned when the mosque was shelled.”

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He noted that the mosque, with its centuries-old dome, minaret, and tombs of significant Islamic figures, has been shelled. “Although the federal and regional governments have pledged restoration, the structure remains in imminent danger of collapse.” AS

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