Kaolack (Kawlax in Wolof) is a town of 172,305 people (2002 census) on the north bank of the Saloum River and the N1 road in Senegal. It is the capital of the Kaolack Region, which borders The Gambia to the south. Kaolack is an important regional market town and is Senegal's main peanut trading and processing center. As the center of Ibrahimiyya branch of the Tijaniyyah Sufi order founded by Ibrayima Ñas, it is also a major center of Islamic education. The Medina Baay mosque (right) in Kaolack is one of the largest and best known in Senegal.
Kaolack is situated on the Saloum River about 100 kilometers from its mouth. It is the successor city to Kahone, historic capital of the kingdom of Saloum. Kahone, originally a place marked by a sacred tree on the right bank of the Saloum River facing the island of Kouyong, became capital of the mostly Sereer kingdom of Saloum in the early 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries it consisted of a number of distinct neighborhoods separated by open fields, each of which was under the jurisdiction of a different dignitary or official. One of these wards, Kaolack (eight km down river), was founded by two Sereer princesses from Baol. Another, Maka Kahone, was inhabited by Muslims and administered by clerics. Otherwise, the population of the town practiced traditional religion and court ceremonies centered on the river bank, Kouyong Island, and various monumental baobab trees.
French interests in the Saloum River increased in the early 19th century as legitimate articles of trade were sought to replace trade in slaves. By mid-century peanut production had been introduced to the kingdom of Saloum and, with the permission of its king, a fortified factory was established by the French on the riverfront at Kaolack.