In Senegal, the Islam is the most widespread religion. However, under the Islam, there are many different spiritual guides with particular philosophies, rituals or ways of living.

My neighbours, the Gueye Family follow and celebrate the Gamou of Tivaouane. This, I was told, is somewhat the equivalent for Christmas to us. I am not sure one can make that assumption, because I don’t think we really understand what each other’s celebration entitles even if I tried several times to be explained what exactly this celebration is. What there is in common is that there is a lot of food.

But basically, each spiritual guide has its own festivity and a city to which people gather.

This is how it went. I arrived to a full house of kids running around, each room (living rooms, sleeping rooms, entrance) were filled with people, mostly women, dressed in their most colorful dresses. The front house which was a large area had undergone some changes, it had metamorphosed into a big tent with mattes covering the floor for whoever wanted to come and take a nap or rest, protected from the sun, but still feeling the heat of the day. We were accompanied for the 4 days I was there, by a-non-stop at- the-maximum-volume loudspeakers spreading to its widest lengths of waves the songs of Koranic prayers. It was very loud. And there was a never ending traffic jam throughout the entire 4 days, like an infinite snake whose color change, you see her move slowly, but you never get to see her face or her tail end. People would sit down on plastic chairs in front of the street to see the show of cars, one behind the other, occasional small insignificant accidents because a motorcycle thought he could outsmart the rest, and as the night fell in, it would turn into a show of red and white lights.

I had been taken a few days before to get braids to prepare and make myself pretty for the Gamou. My neighbour Abata had typical Senegalese dresses tailored for me. They were a little to tight, but there was no time to make any changes.

I was told that this last 10 days,  a preparation of 10 day prayers (although they pray anyways 5 times a day every day..?! But I guess it must be a different prayer). So during those 10 days, the people living in Tivouaone welcome people at their place and give them food to the family and friends that go all the way to that city. The „big celebration“ start on Saturday evening. The house I was at, hosted more than 60 people for dinner.


Everyone had a role. Food was cooked in a back field by 5 men who were in charged of the cooking in huge pots. The (usually older) women would help to chop the onions, but their main task was to distribute the food on the plates. The younger women, and some of the young men, we were en charged of distributing the plates around the house for all the people to eat. To distribute the drinks (water an cans) and at the end baskets with fruits for desert. And at the end, to collect the plates again, and clean up the eating area. The kids were in charged of helping collect the trash.

Sunday and Monday, the house hosted even more people. Throughout the entire day people came and leave, they were all offered fruits and drinks. And then over 100 people came for lunch and dinner. Two cows were killed for the occasion.

People, where the women outnumbered men by far, sat all day in smaller groups just hanging out, eating, talking sleeping, in every corner of the house.

The family members and close friends, we stayed the night there. So each room and living room, and hallway were covered with mattresses. Kids slept on spread out mattresses in living rooms or hallways, some slept on the living rooms or hallways couches. The eldery slept on the available beds, but shared the room with other family members. I was sharing the room with two of the big sisters of the Gueye family sleeping on the bed, the other sister and her daughter on a mattress, and I on another mattress. It was like a huge sleep over.

Since we were so many, and we all need water there was a cistern that supplied the water. And because the pressure was low, for all the ones sleeping and showering on the second floor, we had to run up and down water basins.

It was quite a colorful, noisy extended weekend, filled with food, laughter, running up and down, people everywhere, hot-during-the -day-and-cold-at-night… all in all, very intense!

The way back, was also colorful and joyful, and hot, and slow. I had the chance to try what sellers around the road would sell: conny and another fruit which looks like a date but is bitter and sweet like honey, and one has to lick it because it has a big seed. The aunts were the loudest, singing the whole way, surprisingly enough it did not wake the baby who slept its way through. The songs  included the names of the children who would either coil or laugh, depending on their personalities.

We were finally, Tuesday afternoon, back to Thiès.

2 Antworten to “Tivaouane”

  1. Ann Waters-Bayer Says:

    Thanks for the colourful report, Constanza! You look really lovely in that dress (at least in the photo one doesn’t notice that it is a bit tight).

  2. Matthias Görgen Says:

    Merci für die anschauliche Darstellung dieser traditionellen Feierlichkeiten! Schade, dass du schon so bald abreist. Ich hätte deine Berichte gerne weiter gelesen.

Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:


Du kommentierst mit Deinem WordPress.com-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Google Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s

%d Bloggern gefällt das: