Turkey to restore Ottoman mosques in Middle East

December 04, 2011, Sunday/ 18:02:00

Turkey is taking steps to restore and renovate mosques that were built by the Ottomans in Libya and Gaza.

The Turkish government is planning to restore an Ottoman mosque in Libya, a Turkish company executive said on Saturday.

Hilmi Özkazanç, an executive with Nurol Construction, said Turkey is planning to start renovating the Murad Agha Mosque in the town of Tajura near the Libyan capital of Tripoli. “We will come to Tajura again next week to see what we have to do to the mosque,” Özkazanç told an Anatolia correspondent.

Özkazanç said restoration would probably begin by the end of this year.

Özkazanç visited Tajura together with Turkey’s Ambassador to Libya Ali Kemal Aydın. During the visit Aydın said, “The Libyan people will establish a country that will be a model for the region, and we will help them.”

The Murad Agha Mosque was constructed in Tajura approximately 16 kilometers east of Tripoli in 1552 by Agha -- one of the three commanders who joined the conquest of Tripoli Province during the Ottoman era. Agha later served as governor of the province. The mosque has 48 marble columns topped by a series of arches that support the vaults.

During his visit to Libya in September, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the mosque together with Mustafa Abd al-Jalil, the chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council, and addressed people who gathered around the mosque to see him.

The administration of Palestine’s Gaza City has requested assistance from Turkey in the construction of several mosques after they were destroyed or severely damaged in the 2008-2009 Gaza War, the Anatolia news agency reported last week. According to a report released by government officials in Gaza, there is an urgent need for mosques in the city due to rapid population growth and also because most mosques were damaged during the Gaza War, which broke down the infrastructure of the coastal city.

During the war, 34 mosques were destroyed. Another 161 were damaged and need to be renovated. The cost of such renovation projects has pushed officials in Gaza to seek outside assistance.

The reconstruction of the 34 destroyed mosques will cost nearly $15 million, which exceeds the means of the city administration, especially at a time when economic sanctions imposed by Israel have begun to be felt. Thus, city officials have turned to Turkey, asking for help. Gazan officials said they presented a project to Turkey that includes the construction of 15 new Ottoman-style mosques and the repair of those damaged in the war.

Gaza became an Ottoman territory in 1516 when Yavuz Sultan Selim made a military expedition to Egypt. Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi visited Gaza in 1649 and wrote that there were 11 mosques, two baths, 600 shops and 1,300 homes. In 1660 Gaza became the capital of Palestine. Ottoman rule in Gaza ended on Nov. 7, 1917 following the third battle against the British in a year.

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