Attending an international student fair in Dakar

Former AUI student Macoumba Ndiaye greets prospective students in the university's booth (ph. Smail Mojahid)

Last week Al Akhawayn University sent a small delegation to Dakar to man a booth at a student fair. The delegation was headed by Mr. Smail Mojahid, Admissions & Outreach Coordinator, and, apart from me, included Ms. Macoumba Ndiaye, a Senegalese student who has just graduated from our Bachelor’s program in International Studies.

The fair, officially designated as “Le Premier Salon Africain de l’Etudiant et de la Formation,” was held at the Centre International du Commerce Extérieur du Sénégal, or C.I.C.E.S., more commonly referred to as La Foire de Dakar, from the 7th to the 10th of July.

Al Akhawayn University is intent on increasing the number of international degree-seeking students enrolled in our programs. West Africa is one of the regions we can expect growth in the number of potential candidates. We currently have a handful of West African students, many from Senegal, but have never actively recruited there. The student fair in Dakar was going to be our first official foray into this market. It did not turn out quite as planned.

The Moroccan company that organized the event successfully recruited a dozen or so Moroccan institutions of higher education to set up booths at the fair. There were also a few from Canada: Sainte Anne University (Pointe-de-l’Eglise, Nova Scotia), l’Université de Moncton, Collège Lasalle and Cégep de Sherbrooke, most of which have Moroccan branch campuses. I felt quite at home in this Canadian-Moroccan-Senegalese milieu. The fair should have been a great success as both Canada and Morocco are highly regarded in Senegal. Unfortunately, the organizer failed to publicize the event. There were no TV or radio commercials and no ads in Senegal’s daily newspapers. None of my friends in Dakar’s educational and official circles were aware the fair was being held. Moreover, the timing of the student fair was poor as lycée students were just finishing the baccalauréat examinations and the results had yet to be revealed. Consequently, very few potential candidates showed up. By the third day of manning booths with no visitors, the  participants at the fair, AUI’s delegation included, decided to close shop and lodge an official complaint. Too bad! This was certainly a missed opportunity.

I took advantage of my stay in Dakar to keep up with developments at some of the city’s Sufi shrines.

The Tierno Seydou Nourou Tall Complex

Al-Hâjj Tierno Seydou Nourou Tall (1879-1980), grandson of Al-Hâjj ‘Umar, was an important Tijânî sheikh. He wielded much influence among French colonial authorities in the period following WWII and was involved in affairs across West Africa and the Middle East following independence.  Dakar was the base of his operations. When he died he was buried in a mausoleum on the corner of Avenue El-Hadj Malik Sy and the capital’s fashionable Corniche-Ouest.

Satellite image of the Tierno Seydou Nourou Tall mosque-mausoleum in Dakar. Construction of the Corniche-Ouest underpass that runs past it has been completed. Dakar's Millennium Monument, completed in 1999, stands on the shore just west of the complex (source: Google Earth)

Tierno Seydou Nourou Tall’s mosque-mausoleum complex took several decades to complete. It officially opened in January 2008.

View of Tierno Seydou Nourou Tall's mausoleum next to the mosque (ph. Eric Ross)


Chérif Ousseynou Laye, son of Seydina Issa Rohou Laye (1876-1949) and grandson of Seydina Mouhamadou Limamou Laye (1844-1909) died on July 1st 2009. He had been a very dynamic sheikh within the Layène order. He was especially popular with youth. In January 2007 I had the pleasure of interviewing him in his house in Cambérène, where he is now buried alongside his father. The murals pictured below front his house in Yoff-Layène.

Mural depicting Chérif Ousseynou Laye next to his father, Seydina Issa Laye (ph. Eric Ross)

View of the mural composition outside Chérif Ousseynou Laye's house in Yoff-Layène (ph. Eric Ross)

As in Cambérène, all the shrine buildings in Yoff-Layène have recently been restored.

View of the Layène mosque in Yoff. Its exterior walls have been entirely resurfaced in green tile (ph. Eric Ross)

Seydina Limamou Laye's mausoleum (right) and the miraculous spring he discovered (left) stand on the Diamalaye (prayer ground) of Yoff-Layène, by the beach. Both have been resurfaced. (ph. Eric Ross)

Satellite image of Yoff-Layène. The Diamalaye (prayer ground) is the open space laid out by the beach. It contains the mausolea of Seydina Limamou Laye and some of his successors. Directly to the east is the community's cemetery. The Layène mosque stands in the square in the neighborhood to the south. (source: Google Earth)

A visit to Touba

I could not go to Senegal without making the day trip to Touba. I found the Great Mosque there being embellished… yet again.

View of the eastern entrance to Touba's Great Mosque (ph. Eric Ross)

The Great Mosque’s old wooden doors, which date from 1963, are being replaced. I was told that the teak-wood for the new ones was imported from Gabon, where Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba had spent years in exile.

One of the new teak-wood doors to the Great Mosque (ph. Eric Ross)

The old wooden doors of the Great Mosque (dating from 1963) are temporarily being stored in one of the ancillary prayer halls (ph. Eric Ross)

The Moroccan-style stucco ceilings of the prayer halls are being painted in a new color scheme (ph. Eric Ross)

Sëriñ Saliou Mbacké, fifth calif-general of the Murids, died in December 2007. His mausoleum on the Great Mosque’s esplanade has been completed.

View of Sëriñ Saliou's mausoleum on the eastern esplanade of the Great Mosque. The esplanade too has been newly paved in marble. (ph. Eric Ross)

The author of this blog visiting Touba's Great Mosque. Behind me is AUI graduate Macoumba Ndiaye. (ph. Eric Ross)

About ericrossacademic

Professor of Geography at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco
This entry was posted in field trips, shrines, Sufism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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