A 200-year-old coral stone mosque dismantled by the previous administration will be reassembled at the Sultan Park in Malé, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih decided Tuesday as recommended by the cabinet.
The decision was reached following a working session led by experts from the heritage ministry and “in-depth deliberations” on the relocation of Kalhuvakaru Mosque, according to the president’s office.
The expert team briefed the cabinet on public and professional opinions gathered by the ministry. A forum was organised last week to seek public opinion on the ideal location to reassemble the historic mosque.
An ice skating rink now stands at the mosque’s old site on a corner of Sultan Park.
At the cabinet meeting, ministers agreed that should remain at the Sultan Park “where it is well-monitored and that it should portray the Maldivian historical legacy.” It should also be used for prayers, they decided.
Reassembling the mosque is part of the new administration’s first 100-day agenda.
After the mosque was dismantled in 2016, its coral stone pieces and wooden beams were stored inside the National Museum.
Heritage Minister Yumna Maumoon, who was the director of the heritage department at the time, had resigned in protest.
She previously described the mosque as “a symbol of our religion, culture, craftsmanship and unique identity.” The relocation violated the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, she contended.
The previous administration first planned to relocate the mosque to a heritage island to be developed in Hulhumalé. Reports later suggested that the plan was to relocate the mosque to Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo island.
The civil court in 2016 rejected a bid by campaigners to prevent the relocation of the mosque, which would cause “irreparable damage” to the coral stone structure.
The Kalhuvakaru mosque was built in 1789 during the reign of Sultan Hassan Nooradeen Iskandhar. It stood on a coral foundation carved with intricate designs and was held up by wooden beams engraved with Arabic calligraphy.
The small structure accommodated up to 15 and 21 worshippers at a time.
It also came to be known as the “travelling mosque” due to its history of relocation.
It was initially constructed at the corner of Majeedhee Magu, the city’s main thoroughfare, and Karankaa Magu. It was auctioned off in 1978 during the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir.
The winning bid was made by the chairman of Treasure Island Enterprise, an Australian man named Veyne Reed, for the sum of MVR9,715.26 (US$756). Reed moved the mosque to the Furana Island Resort, now Full Moon Resort, managed by his company.
In February 1979, the mosque was returned to the government of the newly-elected president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yumna’s father and one of the leaders of the four-party ruling coalition.
The mosque was dismantled from the resort, brought to Malé and reconstructed in 1980.