Hidden Belgium: The mosque that King Leopold built

Hidden Belgium: The mosque that King Leopold built

In 1897, a strange Oriental building with minarets was built in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels. It formed one of the architectural highlights of Leopold II’s Colonial Exhibition.

Visitors could enter the dark rotunda and climb steps to a viewing platform lit from above. Here they could admire a huge 111-metre-long-panorama painting by the artist Emile Wauters showing the River Nile outside Cairo.

Immersive attractions like this were briefly very popular in European capitals. But they finally went out of fashion with the arrival of cinema, and most have now vanished.

The Panorama building was gifted by King Baudouin to Saudi Arabia in 1967 as a token of friendly relations between the two countries.

The building was later converted into the Grand Mosque of Brussels. The fake minarets from 1897 now belong to a genuine mosque.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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