This week, many families in our partner communities will be preparing to make a journey to the holy city of Touba. Women prepare large meals in their favorite cooking pots, while men begin loading mattresses and some belongings onto their donkey-carts. Soon they will join the vast train of buses, taxis, and mini-vans all heading towards Touba. Everyone is on their way to celebrate Magal de Touba.
Magal de Touba
One of the most important festivals in Senegal is Magal de Touba. This holiday is celebrated in honor of Islamic spiritual leader Ahmadou Bamba. In the late 1800s, Bamba was exiled to Gabon for 12 years. It was said that he was exiled because French colonists viewed his teachings as a threat to their power. Every year, millions of people come from Senegalese villages, cities, and even from abroad to join in the celebration. Bamba was buried at the Great Mosque of Touba. This is where the principal part of the festival will take place. However, the pilgrimage is also part a big part of holiday itself.
The sight leading into the city is one you surely cannot miss! Dust clouds in the hot air, and horns honk as overloaded buses part the crowd and make their way towards the city center. People are often hanging off the sides of these buses because sheep, goats, and luggage occupy the roof. Along the sides of the roads, you’ll often find street vendors selling peanuts and coffee to the weary travelers.
A Social Gathering
Although the celebration is centered around religious leader Bamba, people claim that it is much more than a religious event. This celebration brings people together. It has been said that there is no commercial lodging in this city, so local families will open up their homes to friends and relatives. Senegal is famous for Teranga, meaning hospitality in Wolof. Generosity and a warm sense of welcome can be found from places like our partner villages to larger cities like Dakar. It is not unusual for people to invite newcomers into their homes. Families will often share their dinners with guests, and everyone will eat from one or two large bowls.
The smell of touffé and méchoui waft through the air as women begin to prepare large meals. Méchoui is roasted meat, normally sheep. Touffé is special dish with chicken or beef with an onion garlic sauce with potatoes. During Magal de Touba, people normally eat meats such as chicken, camel, sheep, and beef. It is also common to share different fruits and juices. The most popular drink however, is Café Touba. This unique coffee was introduced by Bamba after he returned from his exile 1902. Many of our partner communities drink Café Touba throughout their work days. They will take small breaks to drink, socialize, and regain their energy before heading into their community gardens again.
To all our partners and friends throughout Senegal, we hope everyone has a safe journey this week to celebrate Magal de Touba!
Check out the video below to see the Great Mosque of Touba where people will join in celebration this weekend:
First photo: Franco Visintainer