Last Saturday, our CIEE group visited Touba, a town about 3 hours NE of Dakar. Touba is the holy city for the Islamic brotherhood Movement, Mouridya. Ok, now here’s a long explanation of what this means.
When Islam came to Africa, it stemmed out into brotherhoods, sort of like how Christianity has branched off into Catholics, Protestants, and whatnot. So, there are four brotherhood movements, but two primarily exist in Senegal. My family is Tijane, but the majority of Dakar seems to be Mourite. (Also, baayfalls are a sub-category of mourites). Anyway, to tell you the truth, there aren’t any real differences between tijanes and mourites. Well, only a few. Tijanes do call to prayers from mosques, and mourites chant in the evenings. Other than that, the main difference is that they have a different marabout, or spiritual leader. For the Mourites, it’s Cheikh Amadou Bamba. He is the one that build the gorgeous mosque we got to visit in Touba.
Bamba is quite an interesting character. Apparently, the French exiled him at put him on a boat, because he was controlling too much of the local population (this was back in the colonial days). But Bamba returned, because he’s a “man of God”, and then proceeded to essentially create an empire out of Touba. Every single believer became his talibe, or follower, and did ANYTHING he wanted. Basically, what he had them do was work on agricultural fields and give him everything they made. Thus, he worked his followers to the bone and reaped the financial benefits of it. Eventually, he gathered enough money to create this mosque. After he died, his sons have continued working on the mosque, adding marble and gold details and stuff.
The mosque is breathtaking. But what is simply depressing is the poverty surrounding the mosque…
Oh yeah, and Touba is basically outside of Senegalese law. It has its own police force and set of laws (no smoking allowed in the town), and it’s looking into building its own airport, you know, so that all the other mourites in the world can come visit their mecca.