Tens of thousands of Muslims gathered at Senegal’s holy city of Touba on Monday, for the annual Grand Magal- a pilgrimage which honours the founder of the Mouride Brotherhood, Senegal’s most influential religious order, and that attracts worshippers both from around the country and abroad.
The event raises concerns in light of the Covid-19 pandemic as previous years have seen as many as 3 million people journey to Touba for the religious gathering -with many coming from neighbouring Gambia.
A Smaller Scale Event?
Ousman Badgie, a forty-year-old Dakar resident of Dakar, shares his thoughts on the sanctuary measures put in place, “Related to Covid, I saw a good number of people following the measures (to avoid Covid) as the Caliph (leader of the Mouride brotherhood) asked. They are wearing the mask, respecting the rules, social distancing, using hand sanitiser that is provided at the entrance of the mosque. I think the measures are good.”
Although large crowds already began swelling in the streets by Sunday afternoon, far fewer pilgrims are expected for the main celebration on Tuesday as Senegal’s land borders are still closed.
Mame Diarra Wade, a twenty-five-year-old resident of Guédiawaye expects the this year’s pilgrimage to be just as grand as any other year prior, “I think the COVID-19 crisis has not scaled down the attendance of Touba’s Grand Magal celebration, as we see the big crowds in the city in the last days. We pray to Allah to grant us every year the opportunity to celebrate the Grand Magal, and pay homage to the founder of Mouridism.”
Pilgrims are to sanitise their hands before entering the complex and mask-wearing is mandatory. Nevertheless, just metres away from the mosque, social distancing and coronavirus prevention guidelines are difficult to uphold with people being squished together tightly on the pub transportation system and packed streets.
Senegal was among the first African countries to report a confirmed coronavirus case but has avoided the high death tolls seen elsewhere in large part due to widespread compliance mask-wearing and restrictions on travel.