Learning about the Muslim religion
06.24.2008 - 06.24.2008
Today we spent the day visiting mosques and a koranic school. We have learned alot on this trip about the muslim religion, its similarities and differences from christian and jewish religions. We have had the privelge to meet some very important religious leaders and have been granted the honor of entering some of the mosques. The first mosque we visited today was the Mosquee de la Divinite.
It was built by a man who had a dream that he should be a religious leader, and some followed him. One of our guides' family are members of this mosque. The building was built according to what he saw in his dream. Worshipers must wear all white to enter and pray. Only those who are muslim could enter the mosque, so we did not enter. I learned on our visit to Touba last Friday that men are also supposed to cover their heads and that they are also supposed to cover their shoulders as well (so it is not just women).
The mosquee was beautiful. Around the mosque was a village, where many people were fishermen and they let us see their catch of the day, and there was even two huge mollusks (bivalves of some sort, but it was hard to tell since the shell had already been removed).
Next we went to the Grande Mosque of Dakar - which would be similar to a main cathedral. Professor Kebe, a religion instructor from the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, who went with us to Touba and Toubab Dialow (the village on the beach) last weekend also went with us to the Grande Mosque. We were allowed inside the mosque here, which was a great honor. The mosque was built in part with funds, and architects from Morocco, hence the Moracan style of the Mosque. There was a grand gathering at the Mosque in March where people from all over Africa came to pray. The Moroccans had given money to help develop Dakar in preparation of this event, which explains the development of the roadways. It also explains the massive constructions of hotels here, but they were not finished in time. They are expected to be finished in about a year.
After you enter the Mosque there is a courtyard with a fountain. Note the troughs where water can flow so that people may wash hands and feet before entering for prayer.
The mosque was very peaceful inside, on Fridays (the Islamic holy day) sermons are given and the mosque is full. People fill the courtyard and are even in the parking lots and streets participating in prayer. We have not heard the call to prayer here in Dakar, we are too far away from the mosques. In Touba, we did hear the call to prayer and watched as many people in the city left their work to go to the mosque and pray. Some of the people in our group were impressed and wished people would go to church as devotedly in the US!
We were also able to talk with instructors at the Mosque (they have a school for post high school studies - from what I understood). They asked what our purpose was and what we have learned. We shared with them that we were all instructors from North Carolina and that we were there to learn about Senegal, about Africa, and about the Muslim religion. We discussed how what we have seen of muslims here in Senegal has been so different from what is portrayed on the news by the media. They agreed that the US media gave a poor portrayal of the religion and the cultures that are involved. We said we could understand because much of the world also has misconceptions about the US that comes from the media, and from the movies. They agreed. They were eager to continue relations with our schools if we were willing. We have had that response from everybody we've meet in the schools and mosques on this trip! I can think of many wonderful possibilities for students and faculty members in both the US and Senegal
Our last visit was to a koranic school, I did not know if we had permission to photograph the children (I wouldn't feel comfortable putting them on the web anyhow) but I did take a picture of the goats that shared the courtyard with them! There are goats EVERYWHERE here!!!!!
There are also lots of cats and dogs, and horses are still used to haul carts. None of the animals are "friendly" they are not pets here. They are not aggressive, but they do not really interact with people. I have seen some people walking dogs that are pets in some of the more well-to-do areas along the beach. I'm sure there are lots of parasites involved and I'm not sure how prevalent rabies is here. Some of the horses look very well kept and healthy, while others are very skinny with bones sticking out and sores from the harnesses. We were told that when the rains start, there is grass everywhere - I'm wondering if the poorer horses then recover a bit of their weight. My friends with the Equine Rescue League would be shocked that these horses could still stand, let alone pull heavy cart loads.
My last picture is of the name of the street by the beach. I think it shows the connection that the Senegalese feel with the USA and the acceptance and respect the muslims here have for other cultures, religions, and civil rights leaders.
Final thoughts: We are leaving tomorrow so this will be the end, I may continue to add to this blog when I return from the states if I have time. I have been awed by the intellegence, the dedication, the hospitality, and the overall feeling of respect the Senegalese show for themselves and for other people and cultures. They have been so patient with those of us who do not speak French or Wolof, even though they have had to learn both and many know some English as well. There are many differences between the Senegalese and other African countries I have visited (Tunisia, and South Africa) and yet many similarities as well. There are also differences between Senegal and the US (as to be expected) but the similarities are more than I expected. There are rich, middle class, and poor citizens here - as there are in the US. People are very physically active here though - there is always somebody out jogging (I've seen more men than women, but there have been some!) I'm figuring that comes from less access to T.V. and computers as well as a desire for physical health. The people dress beautifully here, even the lower classes have dresses of bright and beautiful colors! Only the very poor wear dirty clothes. People are clean and I can respect the effor that must take, considering we are staying in a nice hotel and some of our group still has limited access to water. There is so much to say and I cannot do all that I have learned and seen justice on this short blog. But I am happy that I can share some of my experience with you.
This has been an exceptional trip and I feel that I have grown tremendously as a person, as a teacher, and as an American! But I am looking forward to coming home and seeing my family and friends!