Monday, July 19, 2010

On the Road to Touba and St. Louis

The trip to St. Louis, a good five hours on the road, took us through Diourbel (jur-bell), which is important to the Muride Sufi Brotherhood because it was the home of Amadou Bamba (1853 - 1927), founder. The main mosque in Diourbel was a photo stop for us.

Upon arrival in Touba, long skirts or dresses and head coverings were required of the women in our group. We were escorted by members of the Muride Sufi Brotherhood through a series of girls' classrooms, the library, administrative offices, and around the perimeter of the main mosque. We were not allowed to enter the mosque because the current Caliph had died the week before we arrived, and non-Muslims may not enter during the mourning period. Update: That's what I understood at the time of our visit, but I've read since, that the mosque is only open to Muslims at all times. The education of young children is important to the Islamic community, and in Touba there is a structure and enough money to provide the curriculum required by the state, along with religious and cultural education. The school has been operating since 2006 and started with the earlier grade levels, so when we asked about state testing scores, we were told that the students hadn't reached that level yet, but that they are working with the Arab government on a mastery test which would be the equivalent of the baccalaureate.
These girls are probably around 2nd grade. Their teacher didn't miss a beat as we crowded into her classroom. They snap their fingers and raise their hands to be called on to answer a question. (I won't be adapting that custom into my classroom.) Most Americans are offended when snapped at.
Me and Suzanne
Amy and me. Note the gift shop behind us. Some teachers in our contingent were intrigued by the, what we call "man purses" which are worn by Muslim men. It seems they are used to carry necessary papers, scriptures from the Qur'an, and so forth. An old photograph of the main mosque in Touba during a pilgrimage that celebrated the return from exile of the Cheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke. This pilgrimage takes place yearly, shortly after Ramadan, which does not happen on the same date each year, because the Islamic calendar is used.
An extensive library holding the writings of Amadou Bamba and others is quite impressive. I didn't have my notebook with me, but if I remember correctly, one of the caliphs is buried under the library.
Shaykh Bara Mbacke, the sixth Caliph and the first not to be the son of Amadou Bamba, passed away a week before our arrival in Dakar.

Continuing on our journey,with our final destination being St. Louis, roadside vistas changed from the city and suburban sights we were used to seeing, to more pastoral, agricultural scenes. Whenever we saw either herds of cattle, goats, or donkeys, there were usually young boys shepherding, or minding the livestock. In this photo, the boys are leaning against a concrete pillar. The electric lines are strung on towers made of concrete, not wooden poles like I am used to seeing in the states.
Goats are literally everywhere in the parts of Senegal I have visited. These men tended theirs along the roadside as we drove through this town.
Short videos of the countryside, first and then a rural town seen as we drove from the city of Dakar to St. Louis

Voila! My room at Hotel Cap St. Louis has four beds, and I have no roommate. I would have to rotate beds every two hours to take advantage of them! (Actually, sleeping for eight hours is something I've done just once here.) The mosquito nets were provided for good reason. St. Louis is where I got buzzed and bitten most often until now. (Back in Dakar at this writing) However, the biggest critter I shared my room with was a lizard. I only saw him once, but I felt his presence continuously. . . (space between ellipses for Suzanne)

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