Founded in 1887 by Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacké, Touba is the largest and most spectacular city in a wide network of Sufi towns and centers in Senegal. Until about 1970 Touba covered a small area. Today, it is the capital of the Mouride order and is home to roughly 500,000 people, making Touba Senegal’s second largest urban agglomeration after Dakar. This Sufi city is officially designated as an “autonomous rural community,” remaining under the almost exclusive jurisdiction of the Mouride order, rather than the typical civil agencies and administrative institutions of the nation-state.
Touba is significant not only in its rapid growth after Senegal’s independence from colonial rule in 1960, but also as a pilgrimage site for devout Mouride Muslims. Much like Mashhad in Iran, or Karbala in Iraq, Touba was built and developed around the tombs of important Muslim religious figures and saints, specifically the tomb of Ahmadou Bamba – the founder of the Mouride order of Sufi Islam in Senegal. The Great Mosque, built between 1930 and 1963, sits at the city’s center and also houses the mausolea of Sëriñ Mouhamadou Moustapha (Ahmadou Bamba’s eldest son and Mouride caliph), Soxna Maïmouna (Ahmadou Bamba’s youngest daughter) and Shaykh Ibra Fall (Ahmadou Bamba’s famous disciple and exemplary of Mouride devotion).
Eric Ross, Sufi City: Urban Design and Archetypes in Touba, [Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press], 3-4.
Eric S. Ross, Culture and Customs of Senegal, [London: Greenwood Press], 66 and 89.