After being inaugurated by former Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerrad, the prayer hall of the Great Mosque of Algiers was inaugurated again yesterday, Sunday 25 February, by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

President Tebboune inaugurates Algiers' Grand Mosque, raising a host of questions

Abdelmadjid Tebboune
Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Much has been written and said about the Great Mosque of Algiers. An emblem of the Bouteflika era, when petrodollars flowed freely in Algeria, this gigantic place of worship had sparked heated controversy since its construction began in 2011, both for its cost (more than 1.5 billion dollars) and for the delay in its completion and inauguration.

Built on a gross floor area of more than 400,000 m2 in Mohammadia, east of the capital, facing the Bay of Algiers, the Grand Mosque of Algiers was due to be inaugurated by the late President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 2019, at a time when slogans were heard in the streets of Algiers calling for him to "go away". He would be forced to resign a few days earlier, on 2 April. 

This huge and costly project remained inexplicably closed for 5 long years.

Yesterday it caused even more controversy and raised many questions. And rightly so... Abdelmadjid Tebboune, accompanied by his army chief of staff and a large delegation, including many foreign theologians, was invited to attend the inauguration of the mosque "with all its ancillary infrastructure", as the Arabic-language daily Echourouq noted. 

The images broadcast by public television, and repeated by private channels, showed the Algerian head of state visiting, in addition to the prayer hall, the museum of Islamic civilisation located on the 23rd floor of the minaret, the institute of Islamic studies and the library. Annexes as gigantic as the prayer hall, with a capacity of 120,000 worshippers. 

Well-informed sources claim that 'the inauguration of the library, the institute and the museum was nothing more than a travesty in bad taste'. Our source added: "The museum has 14 floors. Tebboune visited only one floor. Similarly, in the library we saw only half a dozen readers brought in to decorate it, as well as in the institute, which did not register a single inscription. During Tebboune's visit, they gave the impression that there were students following a course in the amphitheatre. This is all false". 

Everyone interviewed by telephone the day after the inauguration confirmed that the mosque remains closed and that no one has been seen going to the library or the museum.

It should also be noted that other infrastructure that is part of this religious complex was ignored during the inauguration visit. These include a 300-room hotel, several seminar rooms, scientific spaces, a shopping centre, restaurants, a leisure park and several administrative buildings. The car park for 6,000 vehicles remains closed to the public. 

Tebboune's visit to Algiers yesterday raised many questions: why inaugurate again a prayer hall that had already been inaugurated by his prime minister, Abdelaziz Djerrad, in October 2020? Why give the impression of inaugurating a library when its doors were closed the next day, as was the museum? Why ignore the other ancillary infrastructure such as the hotel, conference rooms, shopping centre, restaurants, etc.? 

This is the second time in less than a week that President Tebboune has inaugurated facilities that had been opened a few years earlier. This is the case of the Tindouf border crossing, inaugurated in 2018 by the then Minister of the Interior, Noureddine Bedoui. Together with his counterpart El-Ghezouani, he also launched the construction of the Tindouf-Zouérate road. The next day, there was no equipment and no construction work.  

Tebboune's attitude can be explained by the approaching election deadline. After having achieved absolutely nothing during his five years in office, he is trying to create an illusion. He forgets, however, that the few infrastructures he has inaugurated were built during the Bouteflika era. This is the case of the two football stadiums. In Oran and Algiers. This reflects the total paralysis of a country that, in the last four years, has amassed hundreds of billions of dollars without the slightest noticeable investment.