The government is planning to relocate the ancient Kalhuvakaru mosque in Malé to a heritage island to be developed on the capital’s suburb Hulhumalé.
The relocation work is to be jointly undertaken by the department of heritage, the housing ministry, the Islamic ministry, the military, and the Housing Development Corporation, a government-owned company tasked with developing Hulhumalé as an urban centre.
Mauroof Jameel, an expert on coral stone mosques, will oversee the relocation. The mosque is to be taken apart by soldiers and cleaned and reassembled by the heritage department. The housing ministry will cover the expenses.
The mosque will be relocated to Farukolhufushi, an island in the same lagoon as Hulhumalé that was merged with the artificial island when some 240 hectares were reclaimed earlier this year.
“Connected to the mainland on the northern and western side via land, the island retains its existing buildings, to be renovated into music and arts studios, an information centre and a crafts village, thereby, minimising the environmental impact of development on the habitat,” according to the HDC.
The Kalhuvakaru mosque was built in 1789 during the reign of Sultan Hassan Nooradeen Iskandhar. It stands on a coral foundation carved with intricate designs and is held up by wooden beams engraved with Arabic calligraphy. It can hold 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.
Kalhuvakaru Mosque was initially constructed at the corner of Majeedhee Magu and Karankaa Magu. The mosque 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 MVRf9,715.26 (US$756).
Reed promptly had the mosque moved to the Furana Island Resort (now Full Moon Resort), managed by his company.
In February 1979, Reed gifted the mosque to the government after efforts by the newly-elected President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to bring the mosque back to Malé.
One year later the mosque was again dismantled, brought to Malé, and reconstructed.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad noted that the mosque would be the first building under phase two of the Hulhumalé urban development project.
Building a mosque first in a new settlement is an Islamic tradition, he said.
Some 240 hectares of land were reclaimed in the artificial island earlier this year, adding to the 188 hectares reclaimed in 2002.
Developing a ‘Youth City’ in Hulhumalé is a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.
According to the government, 30 percent of the newly reclaimed land is to be allocated for social housing. The residential areas will be developed into neighbourhoods, which will consist of a mix of social and high-end housing.
The government expects to provide housing for a population between 150,000 to 187,000 on the newly reclaimed area.