Africa

Magal in Touba: Senegalese trek to Muslim festival

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descended on Senegal's holy city of Touba for the annual Magal festival over the weekend.

The Magal is a holy day for the Mouride sect, which overwhelmingly practises a moderate Sufi version of Islam, emphasising the power of hard work. It is marked by travel over long distances, feasting and expressions of brotherly love.

Image caption The Mouride sect was founded by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, a religious leader in Senegal during the time of French colonisation. It is now one of the country's biggest and most influential. These disciples prepare lunch for some of the pilgrims attending the annual Magal.
Image caption Many of the Senegalese living and working abroad are Mourides and people travelled to Touba from New York, Paris and Rome, as well as the capital, Dakar, 200km (125 miles) west of the holy city.
Image caption People filled up every space available in public transport vehicles to make it to the weekend-long festivities, which have been declared a national holiday.
Image caption Donkeys were not spared. During the Magal, Dakar feels deserted, as many street traders and shop owners are Mourides.
Image caption Pilgrims show remarkable dedication to make it to Touba. Reports say at least 16 people were killed in road accidents while heading to the celebrations.
Image caption Ahmadou Bamba founded Touba city in 1887 and it is now said to be the second biggest in Senegal, with an official population of about 1.5 million people, reportedly doubling in size during the Magal. Feeding such huge crowds is a major undertaking and hundreds of cows were slaughtered.
Image caption For some, camel meat is also considered a delicacy.
Image caption The Baye Fall - a sub-sect of the Mourides - are known for their patchwork clothes and dreadlocks. Some also drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, and don't fast during Ramadan, unlike most Muslims.
Image caption Apart from cooking, the Baye Fall also act as security guards during the annual pilgrimage.
Image caption Ahmadou Bamba was buried in the city of Touba, where a huge mosque has been built. Many of his descendents have become local spiritual guides, or marabouts. Each Mouride will pledge allegiance to one such guide.

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