Truth or Fake

Did a mosque appear in Algeria after a sandstorm?

Did a mosque appear in Algeria after a sandstorm?
Did a mosque appear in Algeria after a sandstorm? © Observers

According to captions on social media, an incredible discovery was made in the Algerian Sahara: they claim that two photos show a mosque revealed after a sandstorm. Behind this fabricated story, what is the real story of the building?  

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The photos of two buildings rising from the sand "after a storm" look incredible... But is this story too good to be true? Tristan Werkmeister explains why in this episode of Truth or Fake. 

The first photo was taken by George Steinmetz in 2009 in Lizerg, a small village in the north-east of El Oued, in Algeria. Steinmetz told us that he did not know if he had photographed a mosque, and said: 

"You can see that almost all of the buildings have this kind of domed construction [in this region]. To my knowledge, this photo was never published in print, and appears to have been picked up on Twitter [...]."

The original caption read: "Abandoned village near Lizereg, NE of El Oued, which shows the now disused practice of building homes with a series of domes and walls made with sand roses, or salt encursted sand crystals that are mortared together. This style of building has disappeared over the past 25 years as the region adopted concrete and rebar as building materials."

It seems that someone interpreted the picture as being of a mosque, and that is what has been passed around.

The second photo was taken by Cyril Preiss, a French photographer and founder of Gigascope. He reacted in this episode about the theft of his photo. 

For Truth or Fake, Fatma Ben Hamad also contacted Jaâfar Bekkouche, President of the association "Mordjane El Oued" who renovated one of these buildings in 2020. 

Do you want to report a photo or video for verification? Contact us on the Twitter account @Observers!

To watch all the episodes of Truth or Fake, click here.