The dramatic 17-m pyramidal structure of the Tomb of Askia was built by Askia Mohamed, the Emperor of Songhai, in 1495 in his capital Gao. It bears testimony to the power and riches of the empire that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries through its control of the trans-Saharan trade, notably in salt and gold. It is also a fine example of the monumental mud-building traditions of the West African Sahel. The complex, including the pyramidal tomb, two flat-roofed mosque buildings, the mosque cemetery and the open-air assembly ground, was built when Gao became the capital of the Songhai Empire and after Askia Mohamed had returned from Mecca and made Islam the official religion of the empire.
The Tomb of Askia is located in the town of Gao. The site comprises the following elements: the pyramidal tower, the two flat-roofed mosques, the necropolis and the white stone square. The spectacular pyramidal structure was built by Askia Mohamed, Emperor of the Songhai Empire in 1495. The Tomb of Askia was built when Gao became the capital of the Empire and Islam was adopted as the official religion.
The Tomb of Askia is a magnificent example of how the local traditions have adapted to the exigences of Islam in creating an architectural structure unique across the West African Sahel. The Tomb is the most important and best conserved vestige of the powerful and rich Songhai Empire that extended through West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its value is also invested in its architectural tomb/minaret shape, its prayer rooms, its cemetery and its assembly space that have survived and are still in use. From the architectural perspective, the Tomb of Askia is an eminent example of Sudano-Sahelian style, characterized by rounded forms resulting in the regular renewal of the layer of plaster eroded each winter by the rare but violent rains. The pyramidal form of the tomb, its function as central minaret as well as the length and shape of the pieces of wood comprising the permanent scaffolding, give the Tomb of Askia its distinctive and unique architectural characteristics.
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2020 | Present