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Chinese company to build world's third largest mosque in Algeria

AFP reports on the new billion-dollar deal:

The mega mosque will sit on 20 hectares (49 acres) of land in the Mohammadia area of the capital, with its minaret soaring soaring 270 metres (almost 900 feet) into the sky.

The one billion euro ($1.3-billion) house of worship will be able to 120,000 people and will also feature a library containing one million works and seating for 2,000, as well as a museum and a research centre.

It will be the world's third largest mosque after those in Mecca and and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika "wants to leave his mark" through the building of the mosque, which will also become the fourth grand mosque in Algiers, Ghlamallah added.

"Work will start today after the signing of the contract and should be completed in 42 months," the minister said.[...]

CSCEC was one of four Chinese companies that were disbarred in 2009 from bidding for World Bank financed projects for periods ranging from five to eight years after a corruption investigation in the Philippines, according to a World Bank statement.

There's so much political irony to go around in this story. First, there's a construction company wholly owned by the Chinese government -- which generally has an attitude toward mosque construction in the People's Republic that ranges from somewhat uneasy to downright hostile -- constructing one of the world's largest and most ornate mosques. 

Then there's Bouteflika. If you'll recall, Algeria was one of the first North African countries to experience unrest last year, driven by unemployment and rising food prices. There's been plenty of analysis on why the large-scale uprisings seen in neighboring Tunisia and Libya didn't spread to Algeria, but surely a lack of billion-dollar vanity projects constructed by Chinese companies wasn't really a factor. 

It's tempting to wonder if this mosque will become the Algerian equivalent of Abdoulaye Wade's infamous African Renaissance Monument.

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