Le Gamou

Gamou is the Wolof term used to denote what is known in Arabic as Mawlid, or the observance of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Although the Gamou is celebrated all over Senegal, activities are concentrated mainly around the cities of Tivaouane and Kaolack, which are known as important religious centers of the Tijaniyyah brotherhood. A particularity of the Kaolack celebration are the large numbers of pilgrims who descend on the city over a period of about 10 days around the Gamou period, swelling the population to 1.2 million people, or 4 times its normal size. Some have made the trek from as far away as Nigeria, a 70-hour bus ride, or even on foot. During the Gamou, an enormous amount of water and electricity is diverted to Medina Baye, the neighbourhood in Kaolack housing the famous Grand Mosque, to the consternation of the surrounding areas, which see their taps run dry and their power supply dwindle. The dates of the event are based on the Islamic calendar and thus vary from year to year, but fell in February in 2010, when these photos were taken.