Originally scheduled to open in 2011 and since plagued with several delays, construction of the world's third largest mosque should now be on track for completion by the end of the year, following a sudden influx of builders from Beijing-based China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The Djamaa El Djazair mosque, designed by German firm KSP Jurgen Engel Architekten, will be oriented towards the Bay of Algiers and serve as a legacy project of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the huge development is its showpiece 265-metre-high minaret, poised to be the tallest on the planet. It will anchor an ultra-modern complex that will include a one-million-book library, a Koranic school, a museum of Islamic art and history, and a 20,000-square-metre domed prayer hall with a 35,000-person capacity. The mammoth project comes attached with a $1.4 billion USD price tag, a steep amount of money that critics say could have been devoted to other public goods and services, such as Algeria's health care system.
In addition to its symbolic purpose as a monument to Islam, the mosque honours the Algerian revolution while also looking towards the oil-rich nation's future. The idea of constructing a mega-mosque has persisted since 1962, the year Algeria gained independence from France. That vision was only emboldened by the civil war that erupted between the government and Islamic rebel groups in the 1990s, a bloody battle that left tens of thousands dead. The conflict produced a broken and disconnected image of an Islam largely driven by religious fundamentalism. The new mosque is meant to diminish the influence of these radical ideologies by creating a national identity of Islam that is closely aligned with the state.
The Hassan II Mosque's 210-metre minaret in Casablanca, Morocco, is currently the world's tallest, having claimed that record in 1993. A photo from the construction site shows the slender minaret almost structurally complete, soon to be topped by a glass box enclosure. The exoskeleton of the enormous prayer hall has also assumed its form. Both buildings have a commanding and highly visible presence on the cityscape from the water.
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