Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Mosque of Murad Agha in Tajura

The Mosque of Murad Agha in Tajura

Photo: The Mosque of Murad Agha with its Mausoleum and Minaret.

By Franco Caparrotti

The holy month of Ramadan this year is to commence in beginning of August and devoted men and women around the Islamic world would spend longer time in thousands of mosques worshiping God.

One of these mosques is the Mosque of Murad Agha which is located in Tajura.

The city of Tajura is located just 25 km east of Tripoli and now considered a suburb of the capital. It is a joyful city crowded by high palms and a long white sandy shore.

How many times mainly in the summer time we cross this city while going to one of the many beaches or just visiting the ruins of Leptis Magna and we never thought or imagined that a significant landmark or a monument that exists right next door.

It is the Mosque of Murad Agha which is considered one of the most important mosques that exist in Libya for the reasons of time and the personality of the man who established it in the middle of the sixteenth century.

It was Murad Agha the Turkish officer who was sent to Tajura in 1551 by the Ottoman Sultan to help the Libyans bring an end to the rule of the Knights of St. John in Tripoli that started in 1510.

Murad Agha, the word agha means commander, established his headquarters and command at Tajura so he could keep a close eye on what was going on behind the walls of the present day Old City of Tripoli.

With the help of the Ottoman navy Tripoli was conquered 14 August 1551. Murad Agha was appointed the first Ottoman Wali, governor, of the new Ottoman province on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The city of Tripoli is called "Tripoli the West" or 'Turabuls Al-Gharrb' in Arabic as it is currently known. It is named Tripoli of the West in order to differentiate between it and the other Tripoli that is also located on the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.

Instead of building a fortress in Tajura, which was his original plan, Murad Agha decided to build a mosque that has remain as such until today.

Using a design by famous architects of the Maghreb, supervision of Tunisian engineers and with more than 300 slaves from the Knight of St. John this magnificent holy place was constructed.

The mosque has 48 marble columns, probably brought from the ruins of Leptis Magna, two hundred kilometers east of Tripoli, surmounted by a series of arches, horseshoe style, supporting the vaults.

A water well (sweet water, still in use) and a bracer were built in the middle. In the yard outside, you can see the minaret (square shaped, reminding the Tukambia) which you can climb, with only 105 steps. This gives you rather a magnificent view.

Along with the mosque Murad Agha constructed a Kor'an Madrassa {school}.

Later after the death of the commander a mausoleum protecting his grave was constructed.

It took one year to construct the mosque from 1552 to 1553 and as the years passed good care of the mosque have preserved this milestone which you can admire with just a stop over in Tajura.

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