senegal information

Monday, September 25, 2006



In the middle 19th century the catholic religion appeared with the arrival of the first French missionaries. The evangelization was accompanied with the construction of the first schools. The parish of Mont-Rolland, in the region of Thies, was created in 1893 and gave its name to the jesuit college located in Dole (France Jura).The cathedral of the souvenir african, in Dakar, was inaugurated in 1929. Go their on Sunday to assist the singing mess.

Almost 90% of the senegalese population are of musulman confession, the islamization of the country dates back to the XI century (see history of Senegal), the period when the north of Senegal, was conqured by the Almoravides (monks warriors barbers). The appearance of Christianity is much more recent often frayed between the two religion, the animism, with their rituals and their beliefs, is still very present..


The animists have in common, for the major part, an ensemble of believes and practices as much in religion as culture. The believes in a unique God, creator and master of the world is shared by all. That divinity is assisted by a message and by an ancestor sprite. Their are places reserved for worship, those where men are separated from their wives. Where the libation is practices. The land ritual, accompanies with music and dance, at the harvest's end.The deceased knowledge a eternal life with the existence of a paradise and a hell. The dead are buried under the roof of their hut, that is afterward covered with sand, which gives the birth of a small barrow. The society considers that certain societies deceased could cause droughts. Once their responsibility is discovered, they call out, if there presence persist, the exhume can scatter the rest.The fields constitute a champ a sacred place and to work the grounds you must take into consideration the invisible owners. (the ancestors and the spirits) and to use all the rituals from the sowing process to the harvest. At Touba Toul the perpetual tradition of the "fil" that aims to ward off the bad fate, the natural disaster, the epidemics and to hail the la fertility and the prosperity. It is during this fete that the date the millet will be sowed.Beliefs and practicalThe Sereres believe in the existence of "water retention"sorceress and, before the muslim religion was adopted, specialist capable of discovering who was responsible for delaying the rain where called in. Among the Wolof and the Lebou, when the rain was late in coming, the "Bawnane" gather the population in a officiate procession, to call upon the gods and the offering of millet, corn, and crude milk was thrown to the sea. Among the Mandingues, the "Kankouran", the protector of the circumcised, protect the fruit trees: by attaching a fibers of his costume to the trees, he believes this prevents anyone from harming them. The fishermen place protective objects to protect them from disaster and drift and also to assure that catch will be profitable. A boat providing that the "gri-gri" are correctly placed will not sink and its nets provided with the same elements will return with an abundant catch. In Cayar, we return the cult to the water genie. The Lebou still practice the annul libations and the Sérère consider that by the incantations, it is possible to attract a good fish.

Musulman Religion

The particularity of the musulman religion in Senegal is that it exist important confraternity, The principle ones or the following:

The Mouride (Baye Fall), the Tijan, the Khadre, the Layen...


Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacké
Large Islamic Sufi.Most prominent in Senegal and the Gambia with headquarters in the holy city of Touba. Mourides sometimes call their order the Way of Imitation of the Prophet. The followers are called mourides, from the Arabic word murīd (literally "one who desires"), a term used generally in suufism to designate a disciple of a spiritual guide. The Mourides have large mercantile communities in Paris France and New York City, USA. Their beliefs and practices constitute Mouridism.The Mouride brotherhood was founded in 1883 By Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacké (1850-1927) also called Serigne Touba "Holy Man of Touba" in Wolof). He was born in the village of Mbacké, the son of a marabout from the Xadre brotherhood (the oldest in Senegal). Amadou Bamba was a Muslim mystic and ascetic marabout who wrote tracts on meditation, rituals, work, and coranic study. He is perhaps best known for his emphasis on work, and his disciples are known for their industriousness. Although he did not support the French conquest, he did not wage outright war on them as several prominent Tijan marabouts had done. He taught, instead, what he called the Jihad or "greater struggle," which fought not through weapons but through learning and fear of God.Bamba’s followers call him a "renewer" of Islam, citing a hadith that implies that God will send renewers of the faith every 100 years (the members of the entire Senegalese brotherhoods claim that their founders were such renewers). Bamba's fame spread through his followers, and people joined him to receive the salvation that he promised. Salvation, he said, comes through submission to the marabout and hard work, a departure from conventional Islamic teaching.The French colonial rulers worried about Bamba's growing power and potential to wage war against them. He had converted various kings and their followers and probably could have raised an army if he had wanted. The French sentenced him to exile in Gabon (1895-1902) and later in Mauritania (1903-1907). However, these exiles fired wild legends about Bamba's miraculous survival of torture, deprivation, and attempted executions, and thousands more flocked to his organization. On the ship to Gabon, forbidden from praying, Bamba is said to have broke his leg-irons, leapt overboard into the ocean and prayed on a prayer rug that appeared on the surface of the water, so devout was he. Or, when the French put him in a furnace, he simply sat down in it and drank tea with Muhammad. In a den of hungry lions, the lions slept beside him, etc.

Grand Mosque of Touba
By 1910, the French realized that Bamba was not waging war against them, and was in fact quite cooperative. His doctrine of hard work served French interests. His movement grew, and in 1926 he began work for the Holly mosque in Touba where he is buried. After his death, he has been succeeded by his descendants as hereditary leaders of the brotherhood with absolute authority over the followers.

Cheikh Ibrahima Fall
One famous disciple of Bamba, Cheikh Ibrahima Fall started a sub-group of the Muridiyya called the Bay Fall (Baay Faal in Wolof), many of whom substitute hard labor and dedication to their leaders for the usual Muslim pieties like prayer and fasting. They dress in colorful ragged cloths, wear their hair in Dread locks carry clubs, and act as security guards in the annual Grand Magal pilgrimages to Touba. They are very noticeable, and somewhat pushy, features of Senegalese society. A prominent member of the Bay Fall is the Musician Cheikh Lo.Many mainstream Muslims consider the Mourides' extreme adulation of Amadou Bamba, and his lineage of successors, to be blasphemous, since the latter gets more attention than the Prophet Mahomed and Touba is ranked over Mecca.Amadou Bamba has only one surviving photograph, in which he wears a flowing white Kaftan and his face is mostly covered by a scarf. This picture is venerated and reproduced in paintings on walls, buses, taxis, etc. all over Senegal.The Mouride brotherhood has attempted, with considerable success over the years, to dominate politics in Senegal. In Paris and New York, its followers are mostly small street merchants. Profit is deemed holy. They send large sums of money back to the brotherhood leaders in Touba. Recent Prominent Mouride include Abdoulaye Wade who is the current president of Senegal. Mr. Wade is a devout Mouride (while his defeated opponent Abdou Diouf belongs to the Tijaniya movement), Mr Wade surprised many, especially outside his country.


Religious holidays and special occasions (baptisms, marriages, etc) are of particular importance in wolof society. The presence of all familly members, freinds and neighbors is not only desirable, but obligatory in the eyes of the society. There are the momens when one manifests one's participation and adhesions to the social group.

Some foreigners complain when Senegalese miss work because of the baptism of a close relative. Yet from a senegalese point of view, what good is it to work if you lose sight of what really counts in life; that is, maintaing strong social ties and reinforcing them at social events.

There are four major Muslim holidays during the year that fall according to the islamic lunar calendar and thus shift to earlier solar dates every year. There are:

1. Korité ( preceded by the month of Ramandan)
2. Tabaski

Consult your calendar to find out at around what date these holidays will occur and keep them in mind! try to spend the day with a familly where you are most likely to see traditional custom observed. Note what takes place during the day and ask an informant for futher details. On these religious holidays, your are not expectedto give anyone in the family money; however, most people will give alms during the day (food or money to beggars and children).

You are expected to get dressed up for these special occasions. You might want to have one traditional outfit made that will appreciated not only at all religious holidays, but also for other ceremonies you might attend during the year. (For men, this could be a caaya and forog with a kaftan or mbubb over the two, for women, a grand boubou or a long dress with sleeves)

At other ceremonies (baptism, mariage, etc) giving money is recommended. Your contribution helps to meet the expenses of organizing the even, which often requieres a sheep or large quantities of other food and drink. It is also a chance for people to show their generosity by the amount of the money that they willing to contribute. This concept is often difficult for westerners to understand since it is not a part of our habits and we would probably feel more comfortable giving a present rather than money. But once again, we won't feel the same on these holidays mean to a senegalese, then enjoy them as much as possible.

Since every ethnic group is likely to vary in custom, you might want to ask a senegalese friend who will attend the same event these questions:

Ban waxtu laa wara dem ca xew-xew ba?
( At what time should i go to the ceremony)

Lan lanu fay def ? Or xew-xew ba, naka lay deme?
(What will happen during this event?)

Ndax am na lu ma wara wax suma demee ca xew-xew ba? kan laa ko wara wax?
(I s there anything special i should say when i go and to whom should i say it?)

Man, lan lay def ngir wane ne ci la bokk?
(Is there any thing i can do to participate more fully?)

Ndax am na lu ma wara joxe? kan lako wara jox?
(should i bring a present or money and whom should i give it?)

Sama moroom yi, naka lanuy solo ci xew-xew yu deme noonu?
(What people of my age and sex wear to this even?)


Ramadan is an important time of the year for most senegalese. During this lunar month, Muslim prove their devotions to God by the sacrifices they are willing to make for him. They are also reminded of the suffering of poor people in the world though the hunger they experience as part of their voluntary privations.

Before sunrise those who are fasting beging their day with the xed or Ramadan breakfast.
After this meal, Muslims must not eat or drink until sundown. Equally important during these hours is abstaining fromsexual intercourse and erotic daydreams. The only people exempted from the fast are children, travelers, the ill, and menstruatring or pregnant women. The fast is broken at sunset often with dates or some tea. breaking the fast is called dog an and the light meal that follows is called the ndogu. Only after 8:00 Pm prayer, the geewe and the naafile (a special prayer during Ramadan) will people eat a large meal, the Besten around 11:00 PM.

During Ramadan, Senegalese will ask you:
Ndax woor nga? or danga woor? (Are you fasting?)
You may answer:
Waa, dama woor. or (Yes am fasting) or
Déedéet wooruma. (No, i haven't fasted)
They might also ask:
Lu tax wooruloo? (Why aren't you fasting?)
You might reply:
Duma jullit. or (I am not a muslim.) or
Baay-faal laa. ( am a "baay-faal").

People will also ask:
Naka koor gi? (how is month of fasting going)
You can answer:
Maa ngi ci. (I'm sticking with it.) or
Tey xaw naa tang. (It's a little difficult to day.)

Although visitors are not expected to fast, senegalese admire it when they make an effort to fastfor at least one day. However, if you do not want to fast, you can show your respect for others if you avoid eating, drinking and smoking in front of those who are fasting.

The end of the month of fasting is celebrated on the korité holiday (also called Julli because of the special prayer). Korité begins at moonrise and continues for the rest of the day. In the morning the father and sons go to the mosque to pray. Afterwards beignets and lax are usually served and a large meal is eaten at lunchtime.

Visitors arrive in the afternoon saying:
Baal ma àq. ( forgive any sins i may have committed.)
You may answer:
Baal naa la (i forgive you.)
They reply stating:
Yàlla nanu Yàlla boole baal. (may God forgive us all.)
You may also say:
Déwénati. (may God grant our life for next year.)
Fekkeel Déwén. (may you be present next year.)

During the day, the children in groups will ask for money saying: Jox ma ndéwénal, or Jox ma saama ndéwénal (give me my my money for the coming year). You say: am sa ndéwénal (here is your money). You may give from 5 to 100 francs.


According to the Koran, God once asked Abraham to offer him a sacrifice of his son, Ismael.
Abraham was willing to make this great sacrifice, but at the last minute God gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead of his son. This act of devotion to God is commemorated by the Muslims on Tabaski which falls two months and ten days after Korité.

On Tabaski morning, the men and boys go to the mosque for the 8:00 AM prayers then return home to sacrifice the sheep around 9 or 9:30. People then eat meat allday usually have a big lunch at 1:30 or 2:00 PM. In the afternoon, it is important to visit friends and relatives. When you greet someone, you may say:

Baal ma àq. (pardon my sins.)
they will answer:
Baal naa la. ( you are forgiven.)
You may also say:
Déwénati. (Happy naw year-until next year again)
They will answer:
Fekkel déwén. ( Happy new year-may you be here next year)

Everyone usually gets dressed up for the occasion, so wear your best!

Children may also come around to ask for gifts on Tabaski.


This holiday commemorates the birth of the prophet Muhammad. At night, prayer vigils with religious songs are organized to praise Muhammad and ask God's blessing on the Rasulu-llahi (Messenger of God.) These prayers usually Continue trhough the night.


The Tamxarit holiday falls one month and ten days after Tabaski and marks the begening of the New Year, on the Muslim calendar.

Dinner is served early this day, so be sure not to be late if you are invited to someone's home so as not to miss anything! Couscous is served usually with chicken, but a piece of meat from Tabaski is saved for the Tamxarit couscous and because it is said to bring good luck for the New Year, everyone must take a bite. It is also custom to put milk on the couscous.

After the dinner follows the Kepp. On the spot where the couscous was eaten, the family mounds up some sand (you're supposed to use every part of your body to pile the sand, thus preventing any harm to those parts during the coming year). The now empty couscous bowlis turned over on this pile. The head of the family, facing east, pushes down on the and prayers for the coming year. He then makes a wish, lifts the bowl, and lets it drop. All present take a turn making a silent wish, then dropping the bowl.

After the Kepp. Muslims should say the Xulwalaawu (a verse from the Koran stating that the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) came to visit Muhammad and gave him the message that God is one). This they must repeat with the help of prayer beads 1,111 times before going to bed. By so doing, one is forgiven one's sins.

Groups of people will go from house (taajaboon) asking for money and making lots of noise. Sometimes men will dress up aswomen and women as men.

In the morning. A solemn prater, the julli Tamxarit is pronounced at 9:00 AM.

For Tamxarit, it is customary to shave one's head (men, of course), to cut one's fingernails and to put charcoal around the eyes. It's also good luck to caress the head of an orphan and give alms.


When someone you know decides to make a pilgrimage to the Mecca, you say, Yaa ngi aji màkka. (You are going to make the pilgrimage to Mecca).

The ceremony that is held for the returning Alaaj (if it's a man) or Adjaratu ( if a woman) is called a Siyaare.


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