I visited Senegal last month after 10 years! I didn't remember so much about Dakar from the last time I visited, but the thing that struck me most in 2012 was the Gorée Island (île de Gorée) and I knew I had to go back.
Senegal is a small country in West Africa with a population of about 16 or 17 million. Largely on the coast, a good part of the population speaks Wolof, one of the national languages. Wolof and French are widely spoken.
The baobab tree and the lion are national symbols. While talking about boabab trees, someone made reference to how elders sit under baobab trees in rural areas and disputes get resolved under boabab trees. It obviously holds great significance and there are lots of these trees all over the country.
If you followed the Africa cup of Nations recently, you'll know that the team that won was the Lions of Teranga 😊
|A baobab tree|
Dakar, the capital of the country, has a nice vibe to it, it has a life of its own and there are lots of things to do. The night life is indeed night, as they start late, close to midnight (depending on the kind of fun you are looking for) and go on till morning. There is a wide range of restaurants, bars and hang out spots with live music. There is a beach area lined with exercise equipment already set up. You'll find people exercising there most times, the area is called La Corniche.
In Dakar, the art scene is grand, from street art to graffiti, museums and the art village. The traffic is equally hectic so the colourful streets can keep you company while you get through. Have a look at some of the street art I drove past:
I dedicated a day to art, and started at the arts village (village des arts). I got there after 11am and was early, so some shops were closed but the ones that were open gave me a good idea of things. Typically most people open at 12pm I was told.
The artist who did the paintings above mentioned that it was a new style of abstract art, it was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
From there, I went on to the Musée des Civilisations Noires (museum of black civilisation). It is definitely interesting to visit. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm, with an entry fee of 2,000FCFA.
I saw lots of art works, paintings, history etc from different parts of Africa and beyond. I was beaming when I saw a few art works from at least 3 different parts of Nigeria.
The African Renaissance monument in Dakar was one I had been waiting to visit, you can probably see my joy in the photo.
The monument is huge and symbolises the triumph of African liberation. It was designed by a Senegalese architect, Pierre Goudiaby but built by a North Korean company. It is possible to go up to the top, but at the time I visited, they were on a lunch break that would last for two hours, so I passed on that.
Of course I went by a few other places not mentioned here, would be too much for one post.
Heading outside Dakar
It makes a world of difference if you have a car. A friend hosted me through my time in Dakar so we drove everywhere we went. The road network is good, so nothing to worry about there.
First stop was the Lac Retba popularly known as the pink lake (lac rose), about 30km from Dakar. The dunaliella salina algae that's responsible for the colour produces a red pigment that colours the lake. The lake appears bloody sometimes, so it isn't always pink. Here are two photo I took from different parts.
The salt comes out looking greyish (pictured above) but as it is left in the sun for a few days, it changes to the normal colour that we all know.
|Of course I went on a ride!|
Next, we went to a shell island (l'ìle aux coquillage) - a small town in Fadiouth in the Thiès region of Senegal. This was one off the beaten path.
The ground is covered in clam shells everywhere and it is a predominantly Christian town with lots of religious monuments showing this. we wandered around the island for a little over an hour.
There are a few of these monuments in random places around the town. We paid a visit to the church.
We stayed at the Royam hotel. I quite liked it, I was in a room facing the ocean.
|During one of my morning walks, I spotted this colourful boat|
L'île de Gorée (Gorée Island)
I looked forward to going back since my last visit and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the island. To get there, you have to get to this ferry port, then it is a 20 minute ride from Dakar.. The ferry has fixed times and the transport fare for different categories are in the photo below.
I went with a French friend, I was not paying attention while the payment was being sorted out. For some reason I asked how much was paid and discovered the wrong amount was paid for me (5,200 FCFA). As an African residing in Africa, the fare for me was 2,700 FCFA so we went back to rectify it. After showing my identification, that was sorted out. So pay attention...
l'île de Gorée is an island of 1800 inhabitants, rich with history and so much colour that speaks of its colonial past. All the inhabitants know each other from what our guide told us. There are 1000 Muslims and 800 Christians...he was so precise! The different colours of the buildings represent the different people who attempted to colonise the place, the Portugese, the Dutch, the French, the British then the French took over.
According to our guide, Gorée means dignity in Wolof. However, the slaves who were there were treated with anything but dignity!Do not visit on a Monday as the slave castle will be closed. In general, on Mondays, tourist attractions are closed.
And I could not leave Senegal without eating the famous Theboudiene, so I treated myself to it on the island.