Touba is Senegal’s most Holy City and many Muslims make an annual pilgrimage here. Religion spread across Senegal in the 19th century through Sufi brotherhoods. Each brotherhood follows the teachings of their spiritual leader – or marabout – who is deeply revered and wields great political and economic power.
Touba’s Mouride brotherhood was founded by Cheikh Amadou Bamba in 1887. He continues to be Senegal’s most iconic religious figure and his portrait peers down on you from all manner of places.
He emphasised the importance of physical labour as a path to spiritual salvation, and that helps to explain the city’s acquired wealth through industrious hard work.
Bamba’s son built a vast mosque here in the 1930s. The classroom
complex here is where young boys were drawn from all over the country to study the Koran.
Bamba took an anti-colonial stance at the end of the 19th century and so he was exiled by the French until 1907. The Moslem brotherhoods were a way of the Senegalese retaining their power and autonomy in the face of French control . Today the Mourides still hold considerable power in politics and economics – the current President is a mouride and many think he favours members of the brotherhood.
It may seem strange for such a Holy City, but Touba is also home to one of Senegal’s liveliest markets.
Hard work and prosperity are important to Mourides…they are behind groundnut production here , the many construction projects in Touba- and even the wheeling and dealing at the market.