According to historians, it was built in the earliest 17th century, when the Mande warriors followed the old Songhai trade routes south into what is currently Ghana. Islam took root as they settled around these north–south routes from Bobo-Diouslasso through Wa to Kumasi.
It is made of timber-frame structures that support the flat roof which is of mud construction. Timbers were reinforced to protrude externally and were used as scaffolding during plastering and construction. It also has a series irregularly shaped buttresses with pinnacles projecting which is above the parapet. It also has two towers that stand taller than the buttresses. One of these towers face east and contains a small prayer room. The entrances have triangular recesses which are above.
The Nakore Mosque is located just outside Wa in the Upper West region also shares similar features with the Larabanga mosque, but unfortunately, little is known of the place. The structure of the mosque is that of the Sudanic style. The Sudanic style, though rectangular, has timber frame structures or pillars supporting the roof. It is characterized by two pyramidal towers (the minaret and the mihrab), and by a number of irregular shaped buttresses, with pinnacles projecting above the parapet which give life to the mosque’s elevations.
Apart from the usual role the mosque serves as Friday prayer grounds, the ancient mosques also serve as places of pilgrimage to the Muslim communities in the country. On eventful days, a lot of faithful worshippers gather at these mosques for prayers and listen to Koranic readings. Private readings are also organized on request for individuals who want divine solutions to serious problems or those who seek spiritual intervention in their ventures. The Chief Imam normally requests the sacrifice of a cow and other donations for the community, in return for the readings the Koran.
Most of the communities of the regions of Northern Ghana are predominantly Muslim communities. Islam, which first entered Africa through Egypt in the 10th Century AD, progressed from Egypt towards the west and the south at the same time as the trans-Saharan slave and gold trade routes. In Ghana, these trade routes were used by Mande warriors, Islamic Traders and Missionaries. Occasionally, these routes were marked by incursions by the Almoravids, a Berber Dynasty, which played a major role in the spread of Islam in the area. At rest points for the Islamic traders along the routes, and in conquered territories people were converted to Islam and this led to the construction of mosques in the Northern part of Ghana. Some of these mosques still exist today and they date as far back as the 17th Century AD. Nicely built with ancient architecture, the Nakore Mosque although sacred to the people of the region also makes a great tourist attraction.
Incase you find yourself in the Upper West region of Ghana on a trip, you can round off your trip by visiting the 16th century Nakore Mosque, a very solemn place to visit and learn much about the Muslim tradition of the people in the region.
Architecturally, the ancient mosques at Larabanga and Nakore belong to the Sudanic-Sahelian styles, which can also be found in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. This style is characterized by the fusion of the vernacular construction teclmiques with the architectural rules which have to be respected when building a mosque. Two major styles of mosques were the Sudanic style and the Djenne Style.