A morning of field work in Khourou Mbacké

Last winter break, while vacationing in Touba (see this post from January 2012), I was able to visit the Murid shrines of Khourou Mbacké for the first time. Khourou Mbacké is only about 25 km from Touba, near Ndoulo off the road to Diourbel, but, as the village has not (yet) developed into an urban center, I had not included it in my previous research on Murid urbanization. Yet the place is an important shrine and certainly deserves a write-up on this blog.

Shrines on Khourou Mbacke's central square include the mosque-mausoleum of Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté (minaret on the left), Kër Mame Diarra (center) and the mausoleum of Sëriñ Habibou Mbacké (right). (ph. Eric Ross)

Khourou Mbacké is associated with the early life of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba. In Fighting the Greater Jihad: Amadu Bamba and the Founding of the Muridiyya of Senegal, 1853-1913 (Ohio University Press, 2007) my friend and fellow scholar of the Muridiyya, Cheikh Babou (Associate Professor of History at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) relates a tradition which places Ahmadu Bamba’s birth in Khourou Mbacké. Whether or not this was the case, Ahmadu Bamba certainly lived there with his parents and siblings as a child, prior to their move to Porokhane in 1865. Later in life it is in Khourou Mbacké that he asked that those of his children who died in infancy be buried.

Khourou Mbacké is also associated to the life and legacy of Mbaye Diakhaté. Sëriñ Babacar “Mbaye” Diakhaté was a taalibe of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba. It is Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba, while living under house arrest in Diourbel, who ordered Mbaye Diakhaté to establish a daara (Koranic school) in Khourou Mbacké, thus reviving the abandoned village of his childhood. Since Mbaye Diakhaté’s death ca. 1954 Khourou Mbacké has remained under the jurisdiction of his sons. A magal in memory of Mbaye Diakhaté is held annually on the 7th of Sha’ban.

Mbaye Diakhaté wrote many panegyrics for his master in Wolofal, the Wolof language written in the Arabic alphabet. These poems have become very famous. They are recited at Murid gatherings. They circulate mostly in oral form, as audio cassettes. Recordings and videos of recitations Mbaye Diakhaté’s Wolof poems can be accessed over the web sites such as these:

Most of the documentary sources dating from the era of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba are either in French or in Arabic. Wolof sources, written in Wolofal, are now also being studied by historians and linguists. Among them is Fallou Ngom, Associate Professor and Director of the African Language Center Language Program at Boston University. His annotated bibliography of Sëriñ Baye Diakhaté’s major Wolofal works is available on-line from Boston University’s digital common. Over lunch at a conference in Dakar a few weeks before my visit to Khourou Mbacké, Fallou and I had discussed the prospect of a joint excursion to the shrine. I’m sorry our paths didn’t cross in Khourou Mbacké, at least not this time.

Badou Diakhaté (left) and Cheikh Diakhaté (center) standing with author. The photo was taken in the mausoleum of Cheikh Anta Mbacké in Darou Salam, which we also visited that morning. This mausoleum is undergoing reconstruction. (ph. Eric Ross)

During my brief visit to Khourou Mbacké this past January I was accompanied by Badara Diakhaté and his cousin Cheikh; Badara (Badou) is the son of my host in Touba and I have known him since he was about seven years old. Now a young man with a degree in computers, he works at IFAN in Dakar.

On reaching Khourou Mback we first met with the Calif, Sëriñ Moustapha Diakhaté. We were then given a tour of the monuments by the knowledgeable man the Calif had assigned. Badou and Cheikh did the translation. I took many pictures and sketched a plan of the village.

Plan of the village of Khourou Mbacké

Khourou Mbacké is ordered around a central square (the pénc) where most of the shrines are clustered. Some of these mark the locations of the houses where Ahmadu Bamba’s parents had lived. Others mark burial sites.

View of eastern façade of Kër Mame Diarra. Her room is under the dome to the right of the entrance. (ph. Eric Ross)

The location of the house where Ahmadu Bamba’s mother, Mame Diarra Bousso, had lived is marked by a memorial building called Kër Mame Diarra (#4 on the above plan). Like Khourou Mbacké’s other religious monuments it is surfaced in tile, but it is the most lavishly decorated of them all—grey tiles with brown tile trim and wrought iron window fixtures. Its green dome rises over a room furnished with a bed and book cases all leaden with copies of the Koran and books of religious sciences.

View of Mame Diarra Bousso's room (ph. Eric Ross)

Mame Diarra Bousso (1833-1866) is buried in Porokhane and her mausoleum complex there has developed into a major Murid shrine.

The location of Ahmadu Bamba’s father’s house is now marked by a mosque (#3). This is the only monument not surfaced in tile. The morning of our visit a daara (Koranic school for children) was in session in the ancillary shelter (mbaar) next to it. Momar Anta Saly Mbacké (1822-1882), Ahmadu Bamba’s father, is buried in the cemetery at Derkhlé and his last place of residence, Mbacké Kayor, is also a shrine.

The mosque laid out by Ahmadu Bamba and the mausoleum of Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté constitute a single building (left). (ph. Eric Ross)

The other mosque on Khourou Mbacké’s square (#2) is purported to have been laid out by Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba himself. The building contains the mausoleum of Sëriñ Mbaye Diakhaté. It has one minaret and is surfaced in tile.

Large mausoleum over the graves of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba's children. (ph. Eric Ross)

Next to Ahmadu Bamba’s mosque is the cemetery where he had his children buried (#1). This cemetery is now contained within a large mausoleum whose exterior arches and roof are decorated with dark green tile. Inside, the original burial ground remains undisturbed. No floor has been laid and the small tombs are carefully maintained. The list of the children of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba who are buried here, provided to me by on-site, is appended to this post.

Mausoleum of Sëriñ Habibou Mbacké (ph. Eric Ross)

The other mausoleum on the square is that of Sëriñ Habibou Mbacké (#5). It too has been surfaced in tile.

Two blocks south of the pénc is a blessed well, the Aïn Shukri. A bilingual French-English panel at the site records how Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba ordered his taalibe Mbaye Diakhaté to dig this well in Khourou Mbacké and bring him some water. When water from this well was brought to him, the Sheikh drank some of it and uttered a prayer on the rest. He then ordered that the remaining water be returned to the well, and that the well be named Aïn Shukri (the Well of Thanks).

View of Aïn Shukri (the Well of Thanks). (ph. Eric Ross)

The well, where water is brought up by pulley, is enclosed in a roofless hexagonal kiosk.

View of the mausoleum of Sëriñ Abdou Salam Mbacké. (ph. Eric Ross)

South again from Aïn Shukri, towards the railroad tracks, is the small mausoleum of Abdou Salam Mbacké. It is the most vernacular of Khourou Mbacké’s shrines. It is built as a one-room house, surrounded by trees.

List of Sheikh Ahmadu Bamba’s children buried in Khourou Mbacké

A print-out list of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba’s offspring buried in Khourou Mbacké was obtained from the caliph, Sëriñ Moustapha Diakhaté. Spelling of the names is as in the original. Only the spelling of titles (Sëriñ/Serigne, Soxna/Sokhna) have been modified.

  • Mouhamadou Abdoulahi, son of Sokhna Faty Touty
  • Sokhna Aminata, daughter of Soxna Khary Penda Fall
  • Sëriñ Abdoul Djamil, son of Soxna Khary Penda Fall
  • Sëriñ Abdoul Wahab, son of Soxna Khary Penda Fall
  • Soxna Mouhsinatou, daughter of Sokhna Faty Mbéya Diop
  • Soxna Maryamou, daughter of Sokhna Faty Mbéya Diop
  • Soxna Fatimatou Bintou, daughter of Soxna Ndiakhate Sylla
  • Soxna Salimatou, daughter of Soxna Khar Diop
  • Soxna Maryamou, daughter of Soxna Maimounatou Diakhaté
  • Sëriñ Abdou Salam, son of Soxna Khoudia Diop
  • Sëriñ Abdoul Baakhi, son of Soxna Assiyatou Diakhaté

Râdhî Allâh al-ta’âlâ ‘anhum

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About ericrossacademic

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

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