Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kaolack & Touba

Touba, Senegal
29 October 2010

This morning we woke up in Theis and drove down to the dirtiest, nastiest place in Senegal*. Kaolack had a nice mosque but the town was flooded with many buildings knee to hip deep in green water and a meter-wide stream of foul murky water running along the side of the road. Huge piles of garbage rotted everywhere you looked and it's ripe smell filled the air. Goats, cows, and people waded through the muck and cars and scooters were mired in traffic.

Somehow i found an oasis on the edge of town- a little resort on the river that was clean and didn't stink where we ate lunch. As we left two bus loads of white tourists pulled up to the hotel to discharge their unfortunate passengers. If Kaolack was their final destination in Senegal they were in for an disappointing vacation.

From Kaolack we drove three hours north to the holy city of Touba and met the spiritual leader of the Mouride Muslims. Upon arrival in the sandy city we were ushered into his large chamber where he greets his visitors and supplicants- a large room 20'x40' lined with couches and deep carpets. For the next half hour we discussed Islam and what they were doing in Touba for education and a new university they are founding outside of town.

After our meeting with the esteemed spiritual guide we met and dined with the president of an Islamic Education Program in Touba. We discussed the school he had developed that took Islamic education and added Senegalese culture programs as well as secular scientific training to develop the well rounded, spiritual Muslim.

After dinner we returned to my friends house in Touba where we spent the night. Their great grandfather had founded Touba and was enshrined in the grande mosque. His image is everywhere in Senegal- the image of a man in a white turban with a part of turban covering his mouth. My friends spent the night telling us stories about their great grandfather and his many accomplishments. He sounds like a fascinating person who went through many trials and was a great spiritual leader for Senegal. He was thrown into the lions den but emerged unharmed after two days, was put into a furnace but did not burn, and was exiled for many years. In the end he returned victorious to Senegal, wrote many books, taught many people, and preserved the Senegalese culture.

*A Senegalese friend in Dakar called Kaolack the dirtiest, nastiest place in Senegal

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