Friday, February 13, 2009

The Grand Magal de Touba

So forgive me for not having written in a while, but internet is spotty over here and I haven't had much luck accessing it in the past couple of weeks. As it is, it took me a good half an hour to get to this site today. So this weekend is a big holiday for Senegal-- and no, it's not Valentine's Day or President's Day. As we speak, millions of people from all over Senegal are taking any means of transport possible to get to the city of Touba for the Grand Magal, or Great Pilgrimage. Now, if you're coming from Dakar, this is an especially fun adventure as Dakar is on a peninsula and there is only one "road" in and out of the city. It can take 4 hours to get through during rush hour on a regular day, never mind when the entire city is leaving for the weekend.

I am enjoying the Magal, because it means that the religious chanting which is practically constant on normal days is even moreso now. I fell asleep last night to religious chanting. It's a beautiful thing.

The Grand Magal is important for the Mouride sect of Islam, which is most of Senegal's Muslim population. If you've heard of the Mourides before though, it probably has nothing to do with religion. They are also rather famous (especially with the New York police) for counterfitting. This makes Touba, which is entirely run by the Mourides (separately from the rest of Senegal), a very busy economic center.

Other interesting things about Touba:
  • Within the city limits, women must cover their hair, wear skirts down to their ankles and wear shirts with long sleeves.
  • There are no hotels in Touba, because they are considered dens of iniquity.
  • There is one restaurant in Touba. They must make tons of money.
  • The Mosque at Touba is one of the few mosques in Senegal that non-Muslims can enter.


Anonymous said...

who told you that mouride has nothing to do with religion? Very very misguided. Mouride is all abot islam, true islam, meaning, belief, sincerity and perfection. Please learn about mouridism before speaking about it.

A mourid.

Allie said...

^^I figured I'd let that stay even though there's obviously a disconnect between what I said and what he wrote.

Like I said, of course Mouridism is a sect of Islam, the biggest, most powerful in Senegal. However, if people in the States have heard of Mouridism (which, I might add, they probably haven't), they probably know about its more commercial aspect-- their counterfeiting business.

Anonymous said...

Those rules sound very much like Jerusalem..... I think it's a general holy city thing. When I went to Old Jerusalem in the Jewish Quarter, if you didn't have a skirt down to your ankles and a long-sleeved shirt on, they gave you something to wear as you passed through the gate. They won't let you in there without proper attire.

-Ali, your former roommate :(

Grammie said...

What an adventure. We are glad you are keeping a diary of your days in Dakar. We check your blog every day and enjoy your comments


Refuge said...

I think the French power structure still holds too much influence in Senegal. It is affecting the culture and the quality of the people's lives. Touba, and the history of Sheikh Bamba in their original form and meanings are opposed to any type of authority except Allah. Why is it that Touba Grand Magal takes places but the European choke-hold on Senegal (and its surrounding territories) still exists. Once again, the French influence has been one of a corruptive influence that needs to be distilled during events like Touba. Sallamat to all those for Peace