One attributing factor to the cultural distinctions between the south and north of Ghana is religion. Whilst Christianity appears to be practised to a higher degree in the south, Islam is most prevalent in the North.
Larabanga Mosque dates back to the 15th Century and is so iconic that the mosque is named after the village in which it stands - Larabanga in the West Gonja District of the Northern Region. From reeds and mud, the initial structure was put up by a Moorish trader who tried to emulate traditional Sudanese architecture. During our visit to the mosque, we were told that the location of the mosque was chosen by the long throw of a spear and the decision that wherever the spear was found to have landed, that is where the mosque will stand.
Over the years, what is noted as the first mosque and religious centre in the whole of Ghana has gone on to be regarded as the Mecca of West Africa. Amidst the periodic maintenance procedures, the mosque retains its original form which is indeed monumental to the architectural culture of northern Ghana and parts of Northern Africa and the sanctity of the building itself.
Larabanga Mosque has so much of a strong pull that it is often noted as an object of tourism in the north. When you visit the mosque, one of the locals will be your guide for the time you are there and will tell you about the history of the mosques, dos and don’t and give you a little insight into the local community. There is also an opportunity to donate as little or as much cash as you have to support the community.
The preservation of the structure after all these years should be lauded. It is clear that the prioritization of religion amongst Ghanaians, leading them to be sacrosanct in relation to anything connected to their faith has been beneficial to a structure like Larabanga mosque.