On Wednesday we went to visit the Mourid Holy City of Touba about a three hour bus ride into the interior. Islam in Senegal is organized into Sufi “orders” or “brotherhoods” (tariqa). Most of Senegal is Sunni but also Sufi, which means a more mystical Islam that accommodates cultural practice. Some of the orders were introduced from North Africa (Quadiriya and Tijaniya) and some that developed internally (Muridiya and Layenne). The Mourid order was founded by Amadou Bamba at the turn of the 20th century. He became a symbol of national resistance when the French twice exiled him. On his final return he established the city of Touba as a place of autonomy. The city has become the second largest in Senegal and during the pilgrimage (the Great Maghal) welcomes millions of Senegalese and diaspora devotees to the city.
Before we started the tour our guide checked the women for proper attire and added what else we needed. The group photos we took had to be gender separate. Our tour led us through the mosque complex to which each of the seven Khalifs since Amadou Bamba have added new buildings or decorative flair. In fact the mosque complex is being constantly renovated and expanded. When we were there parts of the inside of the mosque were being covered by intricate patterns carved into plaster and then painted. Some of the pictures illustrate before-and-after this long process, all done by hand. A seventh tower was also being completed and imported marble added to pillars and walls. All of this beautiful work is funded by donations from members, many of whom live and work in Europe and North America. We also visited the mausoleum of one of the Khalifs and the extensive library of Bamba’s works. We stopped for lunch before the long, hot ride to our homes in Thiés.