Undeterred by the traffic jams and the threat of Covid-19, crowds of worshippers have converged on Senegal’s holy city of Touba on Sunday as part of the annual celebration of the Mouride brotherhood.
The “Grand Magal” pilgrimage is one of the most important dates in the country as it marks the date French colonial authorities exiled Mouride founder Sheikh Amadou Bamba, also known as Serigne Touba.
Gatherings were cancelled in March last year as the pandemic reached the country of 16 million.
The celebrations went ahead last October but worshippers had to wear masks and observe social distancing.
This time the authorities believe they can take a more relaxed approach.
Cheikh Abdoul Ahad Mbacké, president of the Culture and Communication Commission of “Grand Magal” believes vaccination is key.
“Last year it was much more difficult from a health point of view because the virus (covid) was less known and there was a certain fear that had set among the population. This year, it’s easier because many people have been vaccinated”, said Mbacké.
As well as being a religious festival, the “Grand Magal” has also a political dimension. Many senior politicians travel to Touba to participate in the event.
Senegalese authorities have recorded over 73,000 coronavirus cases to date, with 1,855 deaths.