Great mosque of Touba
Grande Mosquée de Touba
My Senegalese French teacher, Madame Fatou, once told me: “if you want to understand Senegal, you have to understand four things: culture, colonial history, regional politics and religion.” In one memorable lesson, Madame Fatou taught me about the different Muslim brotherhoods of Senegal. I found it fascinating. The religious aspect of the country is one that interests me most. With my Somali family background, there are many aspects that feel familiar. I think part of the reason why I love Senegal so much is because it makes me dream of what Somalia could look like. At the same time, Senegal feels strangely unique with its perfect mix of traditionally Senegalese and Islamic customs and traditions.
The city of Touba holds special significance. A 2.5 hours’ drive from Dakar, Touba is the capital of one of Sengal’s largest Muslim brotherhoods: the Mourides. Its founder, Sheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke is a highly revered figure. The only surviving photograph of him can be found everywhere, from taxis to murals and shops. In 1887, Amadou Bamba founded the Great Mosque of Touba (which was completed in 1963). After fierce opposition to France’s colonial rule, Amadou Bamba was exiled in 1895 and 1903. When he finally returned, Amadou Bamba’s following and influence had grown significantly. After a powerful life lived, Amadou Bamba died in 1927 and was buried in the Grand Mosque of Touba.
Every year, followers of Senegal’s Mouride brotherhood engage in the Grand Magal of Touba. This religious pilgrimage - which is also a televised event - is attended by millions of followers to celebrate their founder. My friend Aldi Diassé documented the Magal in 2018. You can find the Story Highlight on his Instagram page. I visited the Grand Mosque of Touba in 2017 (organised by Andaando Tours). If you have the time, it’s a road trip worth taking.