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Published: October 24th 2006
Korité 9am Prayers
Thousands of men and boys gather in a traditional praying place to be led by the Imam in prayers to mark the end of Ramadan and the start of the Korité holiday.
The End of Ramadan
Korité is the second biggest day in the calendar for Senegal’s majority Muslim population. Also known as Eid Al Fitr, Korité marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan - a month of fasting and prayer which needs to be carefully and sensitively considered when running a four week training programme that coincides exactly.
Training schedules have to be weighted towards theory, thought and discussion in the mornings, breaks have to be planned to coincide with prayer times and the afternoons given over largely to practical and stimulating stuff. The lack of materials meant that too many afternoons were used to discuss how the group could organise themselves and heads slowly headed towards the table tops.
So, at 8pm on Sunday evening, the nation was crowded around TVs and radios, waiting for news on whether the new moon had been sighted anywhere In Senegal. I hadn’t appreciated that actual sightings were needed - I’d assumed that we knew enough about the moons cycle to say that the new moon did indeed appear on Sunday night. The crescent has to be sighted in at least three locations in Senegal and each sighting must be
The Mar family tuck in to their beef lunch before spending the afternoon eating Ditar fruit and generally falling asleep in front of the telly - just like Xmas but without the Wizard of Oz.
made by a group of duly qualified people - good Muslims who have the respect of their communities. It was a relatively clear night and the new moon’s delicate crescent was indeed spotted and the names of the lucky spotters read out on national TV by the chair of the New Moon Committee.
I was with the Mar family on Sunday evening when the news came through and the preparations started almost immediately. Foundiougne had already taken on the air of a UK town at 4pm on Christmas Eve - people rushing from shop to market to buy the food needed for Korité’s meat-fest - a great meal shared from a huge plate by all of the family to truly break the fast. The news that Korité would indeed be on Monday triggered a burst of late night shopping.
9am on Monday - Korité. An area of grass just down the road from where I am staying had been stripped back to bare earth and cleared of the thousands of plastic bags that litter the ground. The packed earth was to form a prayer ground for the morning prayers. The central mosque is far too small to house
Me and the Mars
Me with Ousseynu, Tabara, Mbayang, Babacar and the extended family.
the Korité worshippers so the open air prayers give the town a chance to come together. I was told that it was fine to watch and take discreet photos so got myself into position early. I still felt massively conspicuous as the only Toubab in the quatier.
Thousands of people came from all directions and the prayer mats were soon spilling over in the roads around the ground. I bumped into a few of my students and wished them “Happy Korité”! They seemed puzzled and I learned the correct Korité greetings later in the day. When the Imams rolled up in a slightly beat-up old Mercedes (which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 70s US cop film), the area was a sea of finely pressed fabrics and bare soles.
The sound of about 2,500 men prostrating and praying is amazing. The swish of new crisp fabrics and the deep chesty rumble of prayer will stay in my mind for a long time.
And then it was over - before my eyes the carefully placed lines broke into a mass of happy and smiling festive faces as people exchanged greetings. The thoughts of food and partying
Little Miss Mbayang
Aged four but with the mouth and mannerisms of a ten year old - Mbayang rules the roost and poor old Babacar gets pushed around. Taught Mbayang how to say "I'm a cheeky monkey" !
(and all of those other day time vices prohibited during Ramadan) kept the greetings short and the crowd flowed back to the homes and families left behind.
OK, so no Queen’s speech, Wizard of Oz or The Snowman (just endless repeats of the morning prayers in Dakar) but the town had that Christmas Day feeling of family. Tabara and Ousseynu Mar were kind enough to let me be part of their family for the day but I couldn’t help thinking about my family and friends back home and around the world.
With only 10 days left in Foundiougne before heading up to Dakar and back to Malawi and having spent so long in that isolation that comes from not being able to truly express myself or truly understand the subtleties of a conversation in a second language, I am looking forward to a good old chat in English.
A word of advice for anyone planning to spend any length of time in Senegal outside of Dakar - learn some Wolof before you get here and then try and find someone who is prepared to take you through the basics, not just give you phrases to repeat in
Being the eldest son carries lots of responsibilities and Babacar gets a rough deal much of the time.
a parrot like fashion. It could stop you going a little crazy!
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