The Great Mosque of Kilwa in Tanzania is said to be one of the earliest of its kind in East Africa. Although it is now in ruins, it was built when Kilwa Kisiwani (‘isle of the fish’), was once a flourishing empire. The mosque was constructed in at least two different phases. In the 11th or 12th centuries the small northern prayer hall was built, followed by a southern extension in the 14th century. There is also evidence of foundations that date back to the 10th century, predating the later structures. The mosque consists of 16 bays, supported by 9 pillars, originally made from coral, but later replaced by timber. Its roof consists of domes and vaults, some ornamented with Chinese porcelain. The Great Mosque is one of the first to be built without a courtyard.
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