Gwollu Slave Defense Wall

In a small community near the Ghana-Burkina Faso border stands one of the only two remaining slave defense walls in Ghana. This historical monument in the Ghana’s town of Gwollu is a reminder of the dark history and dangers of the slave trade in the remote northern “hinterlands.” Read More

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: The Lost Ones

This is the last in of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


When I embarked on my project to visit the last of Ghana’s mud mosques, I thought I would be seeing nine according to the Ghana Museum & Monuments Board website. Unfortunately, there are only six still standing and in use: LarabangaBanda NkwantaNakore, Maluwe, Bole, Wuriyanga.

How Many Mud Mosques did Gold Coast/Ghana Have?

A century ago, every mosque in the north was made of mud simply because that was the primary material used. Look through archival images from the early colonial era and every mosque is some sort of variation on the Sudano-Sahelian* style.

Rudolph Fisch’s images of Mamprugu in 1910 show the Gambaga mosque as a white-washed mud structure in the Sudanic style. Famed American modernist photographer Paul Strand shot a mud mosque in Tanina, Ghana on his 1964 photographic tour of the country that culminated in the incredible book “Ghana: An African Portrait.” Additionally the British National Archives contain images of mud mosques in 19th century Bimtuku (though it’s hard to determine where that village is and it’s possible the images are of Boundoukou, Cȏte d’Ivoire).

Why Have Ghana’s Mud Mosques Disappeared?

There are several factors that have made these mud mosques so rare today. The primary reasons are of function: Read More

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Larabanga

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


The history of the mud mosque in Larabanga is difficult to distinguish from the many myths about it. Its fame and popularity probably owe a lot to the appeal of the mystery and magic in those fascinating legends.

The Many Myths of Larabanga Mosque

Oral and some written historical accounts regarding the founding of the community of Larabanga indicate that it was by a man named Ibrahim Braimah. He was a powerful mallam who came to the region in the 17th century with the Malian invaders that established the Gonja Empire in present-day Ghana’s Upper West Region.

You’ll sometimes hear that the Larabanga mosque was founded in 1421 instead of 1600s and the claim that it is the oldest mosque in all of West Africa. This idea comes from another oral account of an Islamic trader named Ayuba had a dream while staying there instructing him to build a mosque. He awoke to find the foundation of the mosque already constructed. The challenge comes where elements from that oral tradition begin to duplicate and/or conflict with the stories surrounding the mallam Braimah.

Legend has it that after the war in the late 1600s, Braimah threw a spear and determined that he would settle wherever it landed. It traveled through the air and landed on a high spot that seemed unnaturally bright. It was there that he built the mosque and his home. He named the community that sprung up around him “Larabanga” meaning “Land of the Arab.” Read More

Elephants in June at Mole National Park

With my parents’ visit we decided to take them to Mole National Park. June isn’t necessarily the best time to go because the rains have started and the elephants leave the watering holes and head into the bush. However, we got lucky and there were a good dozen or more still hanging around the area.

The kids spent a ton of time in the pool and it was a great chance for Heidi to have a break from hospital work.

We saw plenty of wildlife on the walking safari and then took our own truck into the park on safari to see more.

I finally got to see wild buffalo in the part though they were far away and I didn’t get a photo. Still checking it off my list!

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Banda Nkwanta

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


Banda Nkwanta is a small town sitting at the intersection of the Bui Dam road and the Wa-Techiman highway. Its Sudanic-style mud mosque stands tall – very tall – right at that junction. Of all the mud mosques in Ghana, it has the tallest towers. Read More

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Wuriyanga

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


All of but one of Ghana’s mud mosques lie along the upper western side of the country. On the complete other side of the country, just a couple miles from the Ghana-Togo border, stands the most unique of Ghana’s Sudano-Sahelian buildings. Just east of the town of Garu, in the small village of Wuriyanga (pronounced and spelled “Woriyanga” by locals), stands a historic mosque in the “Djenne style.”

Features of Wuriyanga’s Djenne Style Mosque

Three things immediately stand out when you see the Wuriyanga mud mosque: it isn’t whitewashed, it only has one tower, and it has no exterior buttresses. Read More

Ghana’s Historic Mosques: Maluwe

This is one of a series of posts about Ghana’s only six remaining historic mud mosques built in the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style.


Maluwe is a small village just east of Bui National Park by which the Wa-Techiman highway passes. Its mud mosque sits right on that heavily trafficked road. Unlike most of the other mud mosques in Ghana, it has not had a larger, more modern mosque built to replace it. Instead some modern building techniques have been used to expand it to accommodate more people. Read More