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All around the Muslim world, mosques have a typical architecture characterized by a minaret, a dome, arches and mosaics or stucco decorations. These design elements were brought by the Arabs when they migrated and took control of foreign lands through conquest. But in areas where the spread of Islam was more gradual, brought by merchants and traders, mosque architecture conforms more to vernacular design determined by local skills and availability of materials. Nowhere else this manifests more than in West Africa. The mosques here vary from simple roofless enclosures serving the function of places where the community could gather and pray, to magnificent buildings.

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The Grand Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso is one of largest example of Sudano-Sahelian architecture in the country. It was built in the late 19th century. Photo credit: Geri/Flickr

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