08 February 2014


we spent sunday, february 2, in touba - the most religious city in senegal, the center of mouride islam, and the site of the second-largest mosque in africa. we made the two-and-a-half-hour journey with some other volunteers and our friends' host dad, whose sister in the touba area served us breakfast and lunch and outfitted us in appropriately modest traditional attire before we ventured into the city proper. the heavy top-skirt-headscarf-shawl combination was not the most comfortable for walking around on a hot day. we were overheating and had limited leg mobility and it was a constant struggle to keep our arms completely covered up though we'd been told we had to.

honestly? we felt pretty silly. and got even more attention than usual - locals pulling cell phone cameras everywhere we looked. ugh.

not that we didn't have time for some sister-wives glamour shots ourselves, in the house compound of the woman, her husband, her husband's other wife, and all their children.

touba is a relatively recent city created by the founder of mouridism, cheikh amadou bamba, in the 20th century. it has 530,000 inhabitants but because of its holy status is governed by a special autonomous body and has rules against all frivoulous pursuits, including dancing, singing, and playing games.

the famous library houses bamba's life's work - he apparently completely forwent eating and sleeping in order to devote all his time to writing, though he did have time for innumerable children; we were rebuffed for even daring to ask how many. in addition to thousands of volumes all apparently written by bamba, the library also contains other islamic texts, religious research books, and copies of the quran. we were told that tourists aren't usually allowed into the area with the original writings and artifacts of his life, but we were apparently allowed special permission because we're in senegal to volunteer.

mustafa, the host dad, shows us the inside of one of the books. we weren't allowed to touch them because you have to perform special ablutions and prayers.

a local woman.

camera duels.

tamar is more cooperative than i am. burma is just too fresh in my mind, i guess.

i didn't understand all of what mustafa and the library guide were saying in french, but i did learn some interesting pieces of islamic theology. "islam is the religion of peace," they said, because it accepts all the prophets and all people.

inside the special room: a decorative box containing some of the original copies of bamba's works.

über-special books and gifts from visiting dignitaries.

bamba's bed, which he never slept on but instead rested his quran on, because he believed the quran deserves the comforts we'd usually give to ourselves.

the great mosque, while completed in 1963, is constantly being renovated, enlarged, and made more elaborate because each new caliph of mouridism - the current is the ninth - has to make his mark.

we were not allowed in to see bamba's mausoleum.

worshippers bustling in to pray by the tomb.

rugs to be laid out for the 15,000 people who come to pray here every friday, the islamic holy day.

in the meantime, local women volunteer to clean.

touba was cool, but we were excited to change back into our normal (gap year) outfits and sit down to a yummy senegalese meal.

on the way home, we also got a chance to climb the oldest tree in africa - a baobab that's 1,555 years old. just wow.

excitement selfies.

the actual photos of us in the tree are on my friend's camera. just imagine four of us perched on that big branch!

i'm glad we got to see so much already but also excited to stay here and relax for this weekend. my next post will have to be photos of saint-louis and life here. i hope i'll be able to share those soon!

x, m

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