The Nejashi Mosque is one of the world's earliest mosques, built in the seventh century by the companions of the Prophet Mohammad who were exiled from Arabia by the Quraysh tribe and came to Ethiopia where they found a welcome refuge. Located in the town of Wukro in northern Ethiopia's Tigray state some 800 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the Islamic monument is now undergoing major renovations thanks to the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA).
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to give this iconic Islamic monument the renovation it deserves," Ismail Durhat, TİKA 's country coordinator for Ethiopia, told Anadolu Agency.
According to Durhat, the plan to renovate the Nejashi Mosque began some four years ago, with the actual renovation process beginning last year. "The plan is being implemented in two phases and is due to be finalized in 2016," he said. The site also hosts the tombs of the 15 companions of the prophet who introduced Islam to Ethiopia. Landmarks, therefore, will be erected outside each mausoleum, Durhat said, explaining each of the companions' history. Since the site remains a functioning mosque, the renovations also include construction of a smooth track to ease access for those with disabilities, Durhat explained. A number of auxiliary structures will also be built, including accommodations for guests, a visitors' lounge and lavatories.
According to Durhat, the renovations, the cost of which is being bore entirely by TİKA, are being carried out by both Turkish and Ethiopian engineers with a view to ensure that the mosque's original architecture remains intact.
"The entire project is aiming at preserve heritage," he said. "Hopefully, the mosque will become a major destination for religious tourism."
Sheikh Adem Abdulkadir, president of Tigray state's Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, said the regional state government and local inhabitants were pleased about the restoration effort.
"Ramadan is a month of compassion," he said. "So we are doubly blessed by the current effort to renovate the ancient mosque, which has long served as a repository of Islam." "Ethiopia's King Nejashi [for whom the mosque was named] was a benevolent king, who should be credited with saving the prophet's companions from persecution when they arrived in his land," Adem said. "The history of Nejashi and the ancient mosque of Nejashi means a great deal to Ethiopia and the world."
In recent years, TİKA, Turkey's official overseas development agency, has been very active in Ethiopia, where it has provided support in the areas of health, education and heritage preservation. In addition to renovating the Nejashi Mosque, Durhat said that TİKA also recently undertook the renovation of an Ottoman-era building in Ethiopia's Harari state. The agency, he said, had also helped build schools in several parts of the country, including the Afar, Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regional states.