Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children converged on Senegal’s holy city of Touba today for the Grand Magal, a traditional annual march and biggest celebration of the Mouride Brotherhood, a Sufi Islamic order.
The pilgrims came from around the country, braving the heat and enormous traffic jams, headed for the Great Mosque of Touba and mausoleums in the central Senegalese city, with some estimates putting the number as high as three million.
The weekend celebration marks the life and teachings of Amadou Bamba, the brotherhood’s founder who died in 1927, with readings of his poems and prayers by his tomb.
Some 90 per cent of people in Senegal, known for its religious tolerance, are Muslims. For the most part, they adhere to one of the several Sufi Islam currents represented in the country.
This year, the Grand Magal also has a political dimension, with candidates for February’s presidential election making an appearance.
President Macky Sall stopped by on Thursday and Friday, inaugurated a military police barracks, and asked Mouride leader Serigne Mountakha Mbacke for “prayers for his re-election”, according to local media.
On Sunday, seated in the great esplanade outside the mosque with its seven minarets, the faithful recited verses of the Koran and read from the works of Bamba who, like his sons, is considered a saint.
“The Magal is a day of glory, of feasting… to rehabilitate Islamic values,” said Mouride official Youssouf Diop.
More than 2,000 police were deployed to deal with any trouble, or terror threat, as well as to deter the pickpockets who also converge annually on Touba. Senegal’s second largest city for the Magal.