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The Ketchaoua Mosque of Algiers


   The Ketchaoua Mosque is one of the most famous historical mosques in the Algerian capital. The word "ketchaoua" is derived from the Turkish language which means "tray of goats". It was originally built during the Ottoman Rule at the centre of the Casbah (Northern part of Algiers) in 1612. It is located approximately 250 meters west of the Great Mosque of Algiers. The history of the Ketchaoua Mosque is integral to the ancient history of the Casbah, which is recognized under UNESCO World Heritage List for its cultural and historical heritage.

   Ketchaoua Mosque was massively rebuilt in the eighteenth century under the government of Dey Hassan when it was glorified as a structure of unparalleled beauty for its unique fusion of Moorish and Byzantine architecture. It was transformed and enlarged, making it one of the main mosques of the city. However, during the French Rule, it was converted into a church in 1832. In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI elevated the church to the rank of cathedral then, it was given the name of Saint Philippe Cathedral, which is remained so until the independence of Algeria in 1962. After the liberation of Algeria from the French colonialism, the cathedral was converted into a mosque again in 1962.On November 1962, the Mosque has hosted its first Friday prayer after 130 years. 

   The global architecture of this Mosque is rather rare in North Africa; it combines the mixture of the Byzantine, Moorish, Ottoman and French design. Nearly 1200 persons can pray there. At the entrance to the mosque, there is an ornamented portico, which is supported by four black marble columns. Inside the mosque, there are arcades built with white marble columns. The beauty of the mosque's chambers, minarets and ceilings of the mosque are accentuated by the distinct Moorish plaster work. The mosque, which now overlooks the public square in the Casbah, with the sea in front, has two octagonal minarets flanking the entrance, with Byzantine and Moorish design and decorations, presents a graceful sight. There is a tomb with the remains of San Geronimo enshrined in one of the chambers in the mosque. The vast prayer room is based on vaulted substructures that compensate for the sloping terrain. It then comprises a square prayer hall of 11.50 meters side overlooked by a large octagonal dome and surrounded by a double row of gallery .These galleries of arcades opposed to the mihrab which was decorated with gold leaf calligraphy and grids with geometric patterns. A precious tropical wood separates the main room from that of the women and some verses of the Qur'an adorn the prayer hall addressing the believer's fervor and submission to the God. At night, the mosque is adorned with lights that highlight it.

  Ketchaoua Mosque was submitted renovations many times .At the beginning of 2015, the restoration and reinforcement works are started by the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA). The reopening takes place at the beginning of 2018. Its restoration is an excellent achievement. The architects have done their best to maintain this historic monument in terms of both architectural and aesthetic point of view. 

   In spite of the transitions over two different religious faiths in roughly the last four centuries, the mosque has retained its original grandeur and is one of the major attractions of Algiers. It still receives tourists from Algeria and from different parts of the world outside of prayer hours, of course.
Written by ARAB Sabrina

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