Senegal 2010 - Day 12 (Sun.) part 2

So, after having spent a wonderful 9 days at Richard-Toll, we now headed for Diourbel, a 5-6 hour road journey. But the plan was to do a little tourism on the way at Touba, a town which has grown in recent years (and is still growing) to become one of the biggest and most important in the whole of Senegal at well over 500,000 inhabitants. It's growth can be attributed to the importance of its Great Mosque, completed in 1963 and possibly the biggest in Africa outside of the northern white Arab countries. Frère Adolphe, a French Brother in community at Diourbel (1 hr from Touba) came to meet us there and organised for us to have a tour around the mosque with a guide.

The Great Mosque at Touba.
Here's some info from Wikipedia that explains Touba's importance:

"Touba is the holy city of Mouridism. Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke, Senegal's most famous Sufi, (the founder of the city of Touba back in 1887) was more than a spiritual master; he had a social mission as well, that of rescuing society from colonial alienation and returning it to the "Straight Path" of Islam. The city of Touba played a major role in both these endeavors.
Life in Touba is dominated by Muslim practice and Islamic scholarship. A major annual pilgrimage, called the Grand Magal, attracts between one and two million people from all over Senegal and beyond, from as far away as Europe and America. Other, minor pilgrimages occur throughout the year.
For Mourides, Touba is a sacred place. Forbidden in the holy city are all illicit and frivolous pursuits, such as the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, the playing of games, music and dancing. The Mouride order maintains absolute control over its "capital" to the exclusion of usual state-run civil and administrative services. The city constitutes an administratively autonomous zone with special legal status within Senegal. Every aspect of its city’s life and growth is managed by the order independently of the state, including education, health, supply of drinking water, public works, administration of markets, land tenure, and real estate development."

The mosque was constructed using white/grey marble from Italy and pink marble from Portugal. 

Although it would be easy to critisise the scale and splendour of its construction, given the living conditions of the majority living in and around Touba (or indeed in the country as a whole), one must remember that the great European cathedrals of the Catholic church were built from the late Medieval period onwards, at a time when there would have been a similar discrepancy between the wealth on display in such constructions and the poverty of many of those who would come to pray there. Without feeling totally comfortable about such juxtapositions, I feel that such places of worship have to be understood as serving to uplift the soul and bring the person closer to God through contemplation of the architectural beauty and their prime function as centres of communual prayer and worship.

Frère Adolphe from Diourbel who met us at Touba. Someone in the group thought that he looked like the character Carl Fredricksen from the Disney/Pixar animation "Up". Good call! See for yourself.

A few more photos of the Great Mosque.



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