Majestically overlooking the quaint commune of Djenné is the largest mud-built (or adobe) structure in the entire world—the aptly-named Great Mosque. Began in the 13th century and reconstructed in the early 1900s, the mosque—which features Sudanese-style architecture and is composed entirely of sun-baked mud bricks—was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Though considered one of Africa’s most important landmarks, the Great Mosque shut its doors to non-Muslim visitors after a Vogue shoot in 1996 featuring scantily clad women inside the mosque caused local uproar.
Historically, Djenné is closely linked with Timbuktu, both as essential destinations on the trans-Saharan trade route and as important centers of Islamic study. Today, Djenné’s famous Monday market continues to thrive with many of the same traditions and goods vended there in the past, attracting local businessmen and tourists alike. Another must-see for visitors is the town of Djenné-Jéno, which is located just a stone’s throw south of the city center and is purportedly one of the oldest known towns in all of sub-Saharan Africa.