It might not be Thanksgiving here, but it is Achoura (Tamkaharit)

From my friend Gaucher, explaining Tamkharit (Achoura), a Senegalese religious and traditional holiday that is being celbrated this Saturday.




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 a religious day of joy and sorrows in the Islamic community.


In the Sunnite community, it’s a day of rejoicement whereas in the Shiite community it represents a day of mourning (that’s why they hit their chests and heads to show their grief).


Achoura is the 10th day of Mouharram (the first month of the Muslim year) and a day of fast, which is recommended to Muslim communities around the world by the prophet Mohamed but is not a requirement.


In Senegal, we call it “TAMKHARIT”, the celebration of the New Year and it usually comes one month after Tabaski. Tamkharit is going to be celebrated Saturday, November 24 in Senegal.


This religious holiday happens once a year depending on the lunar calendar that changes the dates and is the time when Muslims make their annual wishes for themselves, their families, their friends and their countries. A great opportunity to rejoice for the wonderful things God provided, to ask for all sort of favors but also a time to pray and again ask for forgiveness to fellow Muslims.


In Senegal, it starts almost one week before the event in the mosques where people are required to make financial contributions to buy one, two or more cows (depending on the numbers of people who contributed) to share in the community. These cows will be divided into several parts and the amount of meat one receives will depend on the amount of money one gave.


“Tamkharit” is celebrated starting in the evening with a delicious “Tiere”, a couscous served with tomato sauce, lots of vegetables and meat (mostly chicken) but not the same as the one in North Africa and in the Middle East.

In the early morning, the day of the event, men distribute the meat to houses while women are busy preparing the ingredients that go into the cooking. Usually, most ingredients are purchased at the market 2 to 3 days prior the big event.


For most people, Tamkharit is about eating until you are really full. The concept of eating until you’re full is encouraged. The reason: one doesn’t really know if he or she is going to be in this life during this time next year. So, people are invited to fully enjoy the moment.


After having enjoyed the delicious couscous, family members gather around the bowl and start the wishes ritual.


Traditionally, the head of the family begins by holding the bowl of couscous upside down into his two hands and starts by making his wishes for the whole family, for himself and then, the rest of the family takes their turn making their own wishes as well. This traditional ritual goes down to the youngest in the family.


It is believed this is the time of the year when God is making a new plan for the coming year and allowing people to ask for favors and other benefits from him.


Most Senegalese families have abandoned this traditional wish ritual.


Beside the religious aspect of it, “Tamkharit” also has this tradition called “Tadjabone” where boys dress as girls and girls as boys. It’s kind of like carnival for children perpetuated from generation to generation. This carnival happens once everyone finishes eating and wishing with children and women of different ages outside in the streets in groups, singing and dancing, each group having a treasurer.


People they meet in the streets and visit in houses give them coins, sugar or rice if they enjoy the performance. The money and the food collected during the night are used to buy candy or to prepare food cooked by the group members themselves or by their sisters few days later.


The next day is usually a holiday devoted to prayers in mosques and houses. The imams (heads of mosques) read verses followed in chorus by fellow Muslims.


Tamkharit is also another opportunity to get together with family and friends.



About bestbookihavenotread

Kristine has been in education since 1993. She taught fourth grade in Ohio from 1993 - 2008. She has been a Curriculum Coordinator for four years. She is relocating to Dakar, Senegal to be the Director of Curriculum for the International School of Dakar in August 2012.
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