JENNE, a city of West Africa, formerly the capital of the Songhoi empire, now included in the French colony of Upper Senegal and Niger. Jenne is situated on a marigot or natural canal connecting the Niger and its affluent the Bani or Mahel Balevel, and is within a few miles of the latter stream. It lies 250 m. S.W. of Timbuktu in a straight line. The city is surrounded by channels connected with the Bani but in the dry season it ceases to be an island. On the north is the Moorish quarter; on the north-west, the oldest part of the city, stood the citadel, converted by the French since 1893 into a modern fort. The market-place is midway between the fort and the commercial harbour. The old mosque, partially destroyed in 1830, covered a large area in the south-west portion of the city. It was built on the site of the ancient palace of the Songhoi kings. The architecture of many of the buildings bears a resemblance to Egyptian, the façades of the houses being adorned with great buttresses of pylonic form. There is little trace of the influence of Moorish or Arabian art. The buildings are mostly constructed of clay made into flat long bricks. Massive clay walls surround the city. The inhabitants are great traders and the principal merchants have representatives at Timbuktu and all the chief places on the Niger. The boats built at Jenne are famous throughout the western Sudan.
Jenne is believed to have been founded by the Songhoi in the 8th century, and though it has passed under the dominion of many races it has never been destroyed. Jenne seems to have been at the height of its power from the 12th to the 16th century, when its merchandise was found at every port along the west coast of Africa. From this circumstance it is conjectured that Jenne (Guinea) gave its name to the whole coast (see Guinea). Subsequently, under the control of Moorish, Tuareg and Fula invaders, the importance of the city greatly declined. With the advent of the French, commerce again began to flourish.
See F. Dubois, Tombouctou la mysterieuse (Paris, 1897), in which several chapters are devoted to Jenne; also Songhoi; Timbuktu; and Senegal.
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