Addis Ababa – Ethiopia launches activities to make Africa’s first mosque -Al Nejashi Mosque – as a tourist destination and a world heritage site by UNESCO in the coming few years. The Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that it is undertaking various activities to make the mosque and the city of King Ahmed Nejashi a tourist destination, which is located in the Tigray regional state, some 900 km north of Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. “Activities are also underway to register the mosque as a world heritage site by UNESCO,” said the Ethiopian State Minister for Culture and Tourism Mahamuda Ahimed Gaas.
He said that the design works for the construction of a center is underway in the area to make it a tourist destination. The center to be constructed in the town involves 15 projects including a modern hotel and an Islamic university, as well as a research center, the African Press Agency report reported quoting Ethiopian radio. The center has already received 110,000 square meters of land to build the research and other facilities. The mosque is named after Ethiopia King Ahmed Nejashi who welcomed Muslim refugees some 1,400 years ago. The mosque is considered a symbol of religious co-existence in Ethiopia. That action of the king enabled the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) to substantiate that Ethiopia was a country of brotherhood and sympathy.
Islam in Ethiopia date back to the year 615 AD when the first Muslims, among them Prophet Mohammad’s wife came to Ethiopia as refugees and settled in Negash, a small village located 60 km east of Mekele, the capital of Tigray Region. The Quraysh sent emissaries to bring them back to Arabia, but the King of Ethiopia refused their demands. The Prophet himself instructed his followers who came to Ethiopia, to respect and protect Ethiopia as well as live in peace with Ethiopian Christians.
The Negash or Nejashi Mosque is as old as the faith of Islam in Ethiopia. It is the first mosque in Africa. The mosque was built in the 7th century AD and is considered by many as one of the most sacred places of Islamic worship and rightly dubbed by some as “The second Makkah”. Negash has been a place of great historical and religious significance in a sense that it is a symbol of peaceful coexistence between the Muslim and Christian religions. Even though Negash is considered as one of the important places in Ethiopia, there are also other important Muslim places like the Sof Omar Caves and the fourth most important city for Islam Harar with it’s 99 mosques.