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Community News: Celebrating Achoura in Senegal

By: Mr. Gaucher Kadam

September 19th is the Muslim holiday of Tamkharite, or 'Achoura.' Achoura is the 10th day of Mouharram (the first month of the Muslim year), a day of fasting recommended to the Muslim communities around the world by the prophet Mohamed although it is not a requirement.

Originally, Achoura celebrates the release of the children of Israel by Moses from Pharaoh's oppression. This day celebrates the repentance of Adam expelled from Paradise, the salvation of Noah, Abraham and Moses. Achoura is both a day of joy and of sorrow in the Islamic community.

In the Sunni community, it’s a day of rejoicement whereas in the Shi’a community, it represents a day of mourning.

Celebration and Tradition in Senegal

In Senegal, we call it “Tamkharite”, usually celebrated a month after Tabaski. Tamkharite is a great opportunity to thank God for the wonderful things He has provided, to pray and to ask for forgiveness and favors. It’s also the day when Muslims make their wishes for themselves, their families, their friends and their countries.

In Senegal, most families are organized in groups and each family gives a modest financial contribution to buy one, two or more cows (depending on the numbers of people who contributed) to share in the community. The meat is then cut out into several parts and shared among contributors.

The day of the event in the morning, the meat is distributed while women prepare the ingredients that go into the cooking. “Tamkharite” is celebrated with a delicious meal called “Tiere” (Wolof). It is couscous served with tomato sauce, lots of vegetables and meat (mostly chicken). Traditionally, after dinner, most family members gather around the bowl that serves the couscous to begin the “wishes ritual” which consists on turning the bowl of couscous upside down on the floor to make wishes. The head of family makes his wishes first, followed by the rest of the family members who takes turn making their own wishes as well.

Some Senegalese families have abandoned this traditional “wish ritual” for they believe it goes against the recommendations of our religion. In Senegal, Islam and traditions are mingled in such a way that sometimes, you may find it difficult to know which one is religious or traditional.

Tamkharite also has a tradition called “Tadjabone” where boys dress up like girls and girls as boys, kind of like a carnival or Halloween. The “Tadjabone” event begins after everyone finishes eating and wishing around 8:00pm and will go until late at night. Children and women of all ages go outside the streets into houses, singing and dancing, collecting money from people they meet. They are expected to make great performances by dancing and singing to finally receive few coins, sugar or rice in return.

The next day is usually a holiday devoted to prayers in mosques and houses. Tamkharite in Senegal is also another good opportunity to get together with family and friends.

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