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France’s Oldest Mosque Gets Facelift

Suffering crumbling ceilings, leaks, and giant cracks, France’s oldest mosque in the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte is finally set to be renovated, France 24 reported.

“The humidity, the dust, the lack of ventilation, I can’t stand it. I’ve developed allergies,” complained Badirou Abdou, a local council representative who has prayed at the mosque since he can remember.

Currently, Abdou prays in a temporary prayer hall one floor above the original mosque. The mosque’s renovation is expected to cost some two million euros ($2.2 million) to the city of Tsingoni and the French state.

The building, perched on an island whose population is 95 percent Muslim, is the oldest working mosque in France and classified as a French Historic Monument since 2016.

France’s Oldest Mosque Gets Facelift - About Islam

In Tsingoni, the former royal capital in the center of Mayotte.

“The inscriptions on the side of the mihrab (a niche in the wall that shows the qibla direction) say that the mosque was built in 1538 by the sultan Insa,” said Ambass Ridjali, cultural director of the Tsingoni commune, formerly the island’s royal capital.

Historically, the mosque was built five centuries ago, “which makes it a contemporary of the Notre-Dame in Paris,” he added.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Despite the noise, dust, and workmen, worshipper Abdillahi Salim continues to use the original prayer hall.

“This is where my father and my grandfather prayed. I do not see myself praying anywhere else,” he said.

France’s Oldest Mosque Gets Facelift - About Islam

A man prays in a room of the mosque of Tsingoni, on the French island of Mayotte.

Where is Mayotte?

Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France officially named the Department of Mayotte.

Indeed, Mayotte is part of the Comoros archipelago, located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa. It falls between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique.

The main religion in Mayotte is Islam, with 97% of the population Muslim and 3% Christian.

France is home to a Muslim community of nearly six million, which is considered the largest in Europe.